Roraj Pradhananga, Senior Research Analyst at Veris Wealth Partners, was named a Veris Partner in December of 2021. Roraj leads our Investment Research team, is a voting member of the Investment Committee and Chair of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee. We asked Roraj to answer a few questions about his life, career, and vision for the future of impact investing. 

Why impact? What led you to focus on impact investing?

Roraj Pradhananga: When I was in the fourth grade, I met the groundbreaking Black documentary filmmaker and author William Miles while he was on a visit to Nepal, where I was born and lived for many years. Miles gave me a copy of his book Black Stars in Orbit which is about the first Black American astronauts. He signed it, “Roraj, reach for the stars.” Those words have continued to reverberate throughout my life. As impact investors we must seek bold innovations – always reaching for the stars. But to be effective we must do so while keeping our feet firmly rooted in the realities of life here on earth.

I experienced firsthand the impact of the climate crisis on communities in Nepal, which is one of the most vulnerable countries to the negative impacts of climate change. I’ve also witnessed the positive impact that increased access to education and inflow of capital and investments to healthcare and other sectors can have in communities in Nepal.

Early in my career I spent many years in more traditional financial services roles in NY. I learned a lot, but the work left me feeling hollow. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much. After business school in Switzerland, I took the leap and joined an asset management firm, RobecoSAM, one of the pioneers in sustainable investing. I haven’t looked back. I was lucky to have been introduced to Veris, a 100% impact wealth management firm whose vision and mission is to create an equitable, just and sustainable world through financial markets, when I moved back to the U.S. in 2019.

How has your life experience shaped how you approach your work as an impact investor?

My experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. fueled my perseverance and my desire to change the world for the better. I started off with nothing, worked three jobs in high school and supported myself through college. I appreciate the opportunities that this country has provided me, but I am also keenly aware of the challenges of those facing obstacles to survive and thrive here – especially inequality and lack of opportunities and access in many low and moderate income (LMI) communities and communities of color. These life learnings drive my passion for impact investing.

I’ve also worked in various roles in many verticals of financial services – banking, insurance, asset management and wealth management at large-, mid-, small-sized companies and startups. My experiences as a former advisor/consultant to large corporate clients, an auditor, a banker as well as an sustainable investment analyst, have provided me insight into how sustainable companies should be run and also how they shouldn’t be run, which is critical in performing due diligence of investment opportunities for our clients.

Besides having very diverse work experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to live in four different countries and cultures and traveled to many more, which helps me bring a different perspective on how to analyze risks and opportunities. 

I have many interests – I’m curious and I like learning. All these experiences help me do what I do, understand the opportunities and challenges of the impact investing industry, help our clients invest in the right opportunities and also help the firm grow.

What is inspiring you most in your work right now?

Veris is a firm where all employees have a voice and everyone makes a genuine effort to walk the talk. I’m inspired by the collaboration and co-creation with my colleagues at Veris, our values-aligned clients and innovative investment partners who are constantly thinking about how to scale their impact and meaningfully contribute to the advancement of the impact investing industry. It is also important to highlight the decision of the Partner Group to remain majority employee-owned and independent, when many of our peers in the industry are being acquired by larger companies. This allows us to focus on our mission and vision, what’s important for clients and implement our theory of change, which is very inspiring.

I’m inspired by our firm’s leadership on equity, diversity, inclusion and devotion to creating the sense of belonging. Differences are embraced here – it isn’t just a pledge or commitment on paper. Many in our industry are talking about it but not doing much. Veris’ unwavering support of underrepresented emerging managers and underserved and underrepresented founders through them and underserved populations through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) is very important. We are also constantly looking to partner with others in helping create investable and impactful financial products and ensuring they get off the ground.

Impact wealth management has a big role to ensure that we allocate capital to the investments that are best stewards of capital and in areas where capital is needed most. So I’m grateful that being part of Veris has given me the opportunity to walk this path with some of the pioneers of socially responsible investing and impact investing – pioneers like Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Michael Lent, Steve Fahrer, Anders Ferguson and David Hills, who founded Veris right before the financial crisis and never wavered.

What is your vision for the future of the impact investing industry?

In order to achieve an equitable net-zero future and a just transition in which global warming is limited to 1.5℃ and all humans treat each other with compassion and care and have equal access to opportunities, we need systems level change where we incorporate all stakeholders and community voices are taken into account.

The impact investing industry has been more collaborative than other sectors of the investment and financial service industry. However, there is still more that we can do to ensure we do not perpetuate inequities and exacerbate disparities. I would like to see more co-creation of solutions – where the impact investing industry truly comes together as a unit to tackle challenges head on and also brings along the traditional financial services on this journey. We will all need to work together to develop and catalyze intentional, innovative solutions that will concretely contribute to additional positive social and environmental impact outcomes. I also hope to see more collaborative efforts to tackle greenwashing and impact washing and ensure that the interrelationship of financial and impact outcomes we achieve can be appropriately measured and verified, which will provide further credibility and validity to impact investors.

I see opportunities for collaborative partnerships on various topics like climate crisis – reliance away from fossil fuel (the Ukraine invasion has shown why this is even more important today, not only the need to tackle climate change but also from a humanitarian and geopolitical stability perspective), the need for sustainable and regenerative farming practices, racial & gender inequity, and the lack of opportunities and wealth building in LMI communities and communities of color.

Everything we do is interconnected – the food we eat, the products we use and the waste we generate, the electricity we consume, the impact of our experience in the U.S. on the rest of the world. We have to remember that we only have one earth. I’m excited about being involved in developing innovations designed for intersectionality and the ways we might use new technologies to tackle challenges like environmental/climate justice that are complex and intertwined.

There are lots of conversations happening about conscious capitalism, stakeholder capitalism, regenerative finance and practices and double and triple bottom line. How do we ensure that these succeed? Let’s take a step back and focus on why we are in the impact investing space in the first place. It is to have a positive social and environmental impact. We sometimes get too hung up on the miniscule details while forgetting the crises at hand. We need to use our voices and capital to fight against injustice, eliminate bias and discrimination and work towards an equitable, just and sustainable world together.