Thus far, many institutional investors and pension funds have lagged in unearthing their own distinct purpose. Based on our analysis of a sample of institutional investors, many have defined a mission statement of sorts, but most of those declarations do not represent a true purpose. For example, some have defined their purpose in terms of generating the highest possible returns for the entities whose money they manage—a universally applicable premise for the work that all institutional investors do.
We recently analyzed the mission statements of several dozen institutional investors. The results show that most firms have a big opportunity for improvement. Here’s where the declarations go wrong:
- They rely on platitudes and generalities.
Many institutional investors’ purpose statements use the same language, and few are distinctive or memorable. For example, many firms say that their mission is to serve as stewards of the capital of the investors whose money they manage. That may be true, but it’s true for all firms in the industry, so the statement is neither unique nor differentiated.
- They focus on the “what” rather than the “why.”
Simply explaining what an organization does lacks meaning. It is not as emotionally compelling to employees as explaining why the organization does what it does, which helps people link their individual contributions to the ultimate impact of the organization and shows that they are part of something larger.
- They’re superficial.
An authentic purpose isn’t something you can develop in a day; rather, it has to be discovered, through a process of self-reflection that requires firms to consider why they exist. It’s hard work, and it takes time, but it results in more than a tagline; it yields principles and beliefs that create emotional engagement and guide behavior.
Find out more about how institutional investors are changing the investment game by reading our white paper: Institutional Investors Discover the Power of Purpose.