By Amanda de Luis
Mexican monarch butterflies in the region of Michoacán and sesame farmers in the Oaxaca area would agree that Laura Ortiz Montemayor has been one of the most important members in a big team who has helped them to thrive in a new and inspiring way. Laura is the CEO of SVX Mexico and her mission is to connect natural capital with financial capital through high impact investment.
Despite the fact she was one of the few pioneers to do this in Mexico, in just a few years she has encouraged high impact investment in the financial world and not only in Latin America. Last year SVX MX organized a conference to invite a representative of the indigenous community at the J.P. Morgan Sustainable Summit. They also gave a workshop for the World Bank on investments in landscape regeneration. In both events, they spoke about regenerative finances and decolonization of transactions. A few years ago, these events would have been unthinkable in the financial industry.
Laura observes a change in the dynamics of the financial world, where new values based on regenerating life are starting to permeate the for-profit culture. These new values are part of her company’s mission, which is to put capital at the service of life. Her company believes that the financial system ought to serve the economy and the economy should provide for society. She considers herself a translator between the financial world and the real world, which she thinks are quite disconnected. According to Laura, a plethora of natural capital has been transformed to financial capital and this flux needs to be reversed in order to combat climate change.
Although she studied international trade, Montemayor first ended up working in private banking and wealth management. She became a certified stock broker in May 2008 and in September of that year the stock market crashed. The bank fired expensive senior workers and moved up younger, lower-compensated employees, Montemayor included. She had to deal with big private portfolios, so she learned a lot in a short period of time. The atmosphere was glamourous, with lots of cocktail events and trips, and her professional ambition grew. She changed to a bigger bank to oversee corporate portfolios. Montemayor witnessed lots of ethical dilemmas within and although she was shocked by it, she still was quite ambitious as her bonuses kept growing. But by the time she was outperforming many peer bankers, she was twenty-nine and sick. She had her first panic attack as she was questioning her profession. Also, she realized that she was making so much money that she did not understand its true value or its social and environmental costs. At the bank they saw her as a nonconformist. So, she decided to quit 4 months after having the panic attack. Everybody thought she was going to move to another bank but she had saved some money to study for a Master’s degree. But no Master’s program could offer her what her heart was aching for, so she enrolled in interesting courses and found out about high impact investments.
It was 2014 and in Mexico impact investment wasn’t a reality yet. There was an urgent need to train investors about the new investment paradigm, which was something Laura already did with her clients in her previous jobs. With her savings and the help of SVX Canada she created SVX Mexico. By January 2015 she already had her first fund client.
Nowadays things are very different. In the beginning, Montemayor chose partners with elevated investment skills, but shortly after she realized they didn’t share the same ethics, mission and objectives of impact investment. Her current team shares the holistic perspective of investment that drives both social and environmental justice, and not just to make money. Their clients are systemic investors who are aware of the deep relationship between the regeneration of the planet and their own regeneration and see it as a unified legacy. They value regeneration over the reproduction of their capital and invest in projects that regenerate ecosystems and biodiversity.
When she talks about SVX Mexico achievements, Laura defines success in qualitative terms, not in how much money is invested or made in impact investment. She’s proud of the 1,300 trained investors and its domino effect in impact investment. But she really gets a sparkle in her eyes when she talks about the regenerated bay of Juluchuca, Guerrero which is the site of Playa Viva, an impact investment resort that has helped the community thrive and even bring back migrants because of the prosperity the investment has facilitated.
Laura points out that investors normally are looking for an undervalued investment which can take off in the near future. Today natural capital and ecosystems are completely undervalued and indigenous communities are the ones who hold the most profound knowledge and wisdom about them. So, the best opportunity of our times is to invest in biodiversity and indigenous communities, for both the financial and environmental returns.. Laura reminds us that our generation cannot miss this opportunity as it is the only life insurance we all have.
About the Author
Writer, director and producer Amanda de Luis started her film and writing career in the documentary field in San Francisco. She’s produced feature films, TV series and documentaries. She has written and directed videos for raising public awareness and funding campaigns for NGOs in a number of countries such as India, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. She is currently writing and directing Iceberg, a documentary series about initiatives working towards a transformation to a new eco-social paradigm.