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Like many of the long-time members of our Green Business Network, Judy Seid has seen her vision change since the first inception of her green business. "Originally I viewed myself being a personal financial advisor with a small private practice," says Judy. "Now I envision Blue Summit Financial Group as larger firm and us along with other SRI firms being the “gold standard” of investing."
Green Americans agree that Blue Summit is setting the standard, voting Judy and her investment firm into one of the top-ten slots in our 2009 People's Choice Award contest -- a first for socially responsible investing (SRI) firm. In honor of this achievement, we asked Judy to be our interviewee for December, and to tell us more about the evolution of her business, how she got her start, and recently being featured on the cover of a magazine.
Green America: What does your business do, and how long have you been a member of Green America?
Judy Seid: The Blue Summit Financial Group helps align clients' investments with their values through socially responsible investments and wealth management services. We are in San Diego, but have clients in many other states and even countries. Since we have a unique specialty, people in many locations seek us out.We have been a part of Green America from our inception (back when Green America was Co-op America) more than 15 years ago. In fact, our first marketing endeavors were workshops on socially responsible investing (SRI) given to Co-op America members. We are happy to announce that we continue to provide discounts to Green America members -- and that 15 years later we still have clients from that first Co-op America workshop!
What makes your business green?
Judy: We try to implement as many green practices as possible - using recycled paper for stationery, energy-efficient lighting, taking public transportation and riding our bikes into the office, and so on. But the fact that we're investing more than $80 million into green and socially responsible companies is probably the biggest factor that makes us a “green” company.
Is there a story behind the name of your business?
Judy: Originally we worked under the name “Seid Financial,” however when we added additional advisors, we searched for a name that evoked nature, the earth, and the mountains. I love backpacking and the idea of being able to see the “bigger picture” when one is on a summit resonated with me as a parallel to helping people understand SRI.
What did you do before you started your business, and what motivated you in the beginning?
Judy: I was raising three children, graduated from business school, then worked as an assistant to Jack Brill, author of “Investing from the Heart” and “Investing with Your Values”, until I eventually took over after he retired. I was fascinated by the concept of SRI and felt that it really struck a chord with my own personal philosophy. It really made logical sense to me that if you could have your money work for the dual purpose of making money AND making a difference, why wouldn’t you want to be invested this way?
What have been some of the biggest challenges of maintaining high standards of social and environmental responsibility?
Judy: We are always trying to find leading edge investment products for our clients. SRI investment choices used to be limited, but now we have clean-tech, green real estate, SRI fixed income, community investing, and many new and exciting investment vehicles for our clients.
Another challenge has been the "performance myth," or a mindset on the part of many conventional investors that SRI investments would under-perform non-SRI investments. We have developed an entire workshop to discuss this myth, and there have been numerous studies and evidence that this is not the true. I believe that as SRI grows and eventually goes mainstream, this myth will likely fade away.
Judy was named SRI Advisor of the Year by Boomer Market Advisor Magazine.
What's been your proudest moment as a green business owner?
Judy: This year I celebrated 15 years of being in business AND I made the cover of a magazine, it doesn’t get much better than that!
And earlier this week, we received a gift package from a client expressing how much they appreciated our level of personal service and our commitment to SRI. Now that made my day! We love nothing better than the feeling that we have made a difference in someone’s life.
What advice would you give to other green entrepreneurs just starting out?
Judy: Being in business is hard: whether you are green, red, or blue; but perseverance, commitment, and passion will always keep you going, so don’t lose sight of the larger goal. Remember that just by returning phone calls and following up you will be ahead of 50% of your competition. I have learned over the years to take all new client relationships slowly. Even though it may take a bit more effort up front, we can make sure we are a good fit, that expectations on both sides are reasonable, and we will have a better likelihood to develop and maintain the long-term relationship we are both looking for.
What's the next green step you're working on?
Judy: We have been working to get our Client Action Network (CAN) started so that our clients can personally get involved in shareholder action in order to prompt more change in corporate behavior. In addition, we took advantage of the down markets by making some changes to our business that have set us up for a successful, green recovery in the coming years. Namely, we have hired additional staff, are beginning a search for “green” office space, and are researching additional "deep green" investment options for our wealth management clients.
What's inspiring you in the green economy right now?
Judy: I have witnessed a huge paradigm shift that the public is undergoing. It has gone from “green is fringe” to “green is chic”. The next step and what is exciting is that we can be a part of turning the “green is chic” to green is just normal everyday mindset.
What one green product could you not live without?
Judy: That’s easy; 1) my bicycle, 2) my reusable grocery bags, and 3) my Klean Kanteen! I love to ride my bike wherever and whenever possible, I never take plastic grocery bags anymore and rarely ever take department store bags, and I love to carry water with me. It always tastes great in the Klean Kanteen.
(Disclosure Required) Securities offered through Pacific West Securities, Inc. (Pacific West) Member FINRA/SIPC.Advisory services provided through Pacific West Financial Consultants, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Blue Summit Financial Group, Inc and Pacific West are not affiliated.
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Ask Judy a question of your own by December 15,
and check back in January for answers to reader questions.