Tell us more about yourselves.
Hi, I’m Matthew Koh, a proud member of the Class of 2019. Following graduation, I spent two years in National Service as an Army Officer. I’m currently working at a crypto venture capital fund before embarking on the next chapter of my life at Duke University later this fall. Along the way, I have had the good fortune of meeting other SJII alumni doing amazing work in both the realms of blockchain and sustainable finance and sometimes, at the confluence of both. I love the awesome vibes of our alumni community and am excited to watch the Lasallian spirit continue to thrive.
Hi I’m Tim, and I was from the class of 2020. At SJII, I headed the editorial team for One Voice, led the debate team, and ran the investment club alongside Matt. At the moment, I’m serving as an officer in the army and will head off to study economics at Cambridge next fall where mercifully, there are far fewer jungles. At present, I’ve taken an interest in behavioural economics, Chinese history and politics, and of course sustainable finance! Outside the confines of the army, I enjoy reading magical realist fiction (Marquez, Bulgarkov and Murakami of late), listening to and collecting jazz vinyl (recently overpaid for an original Kind of Blue), and running.
What is the BAUM Movement?
The BAUM Movement is a non-profit sustainable investing initiative aimed at rallying Gen Zs around global issues, sustainability and business. We are building a community platform to provide sustainable investment education, market research and actionable insights for fellow youths.
What inspired you both to create the BAUM Movement?
Social media and the rise of digital retail investment platforms have sparked an increased interest in investing among youths. At the same time, the members of our generation possess a strong sense of shared responsibility for the future wellbeing of our planet. Young people are becoming actively engaged in global issues ranging from climate change to social inequality. We started The BAUM Movement to bridge this intersection between finance and sustainability for Gen Zs, empowering them with ways to invest in the long-term progress of our planet while yielding financial returns. We also hope to inspire potential careers in ESG.
Where can people find more about the BAUM Movement?
You can visit our website at www.thebaummovement.org or follow us on Instagram @thebaummovement. We are also actively supporting SJII’s Investment Club through educational projects to introduce members to sustainable investment concepts.
As part of our efforts to reach the broader Gen Z community in Singapore, we have been hosting sustainable investment workshops with several partners backed by ministry organizations. Having recently received a generous grant from Singapore’s Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), we are looking to expand BAUM’s reach in a faster and wider manner than before. We are always searching for new partners and sponsors who can contribute to BAUM’s vision and purpose.
We understand that fellow alumni Nadya Tan ’19 and Alex Brown ‘21, as well as current student Sage Wu are part of the initiative. How did you manage to assemble the BAUM Movement Team?
Excited by Matt and my early conceptualizations of the project, Alex and Nadya were quickly brought to mind as we looked to build a core team. I had worked with both of them in separate capacities while at SJII (investment club and the debate team respectively), and we are confident that they would contribute invaluable perspective as well as technical prowess to the team. In particular, Nadya’s analytical approach to understanding businesses, and Alex’s experience running web-based projects with XS news proved crucial in the project’s infancy.
I’ve been continually astounded by, and am extremely grateful for how connections made early on in an environment that fosters ingenuity and initiative like SJII can take on a completely new light outside the safe and familiar confines of school. BAUM hopes to continue in this spirit through our commitment to the school’s investment club (now spearheaded by Sage!).
How important was it to have other alumni and students participate?
I am extremely grateful to have had fellow SJII alumni and students heavily involved in the creation and development of The BAUM Movement. Within a small, yet highly vibrant school community, it is heartening to know that you will always be able to find like-minded peers to support a common vision.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing everyone together to kickstart this initiative?
I think our biggest challenge was defining the somewhat nebulous visions we each had for the project. As our output is neither a product nor a professional service, it was initially difficult to articulate what we did in plain terms. But through much deliberation and fine-tuning, our characterization of the project as a movement that seeks to promote and educate sustainable investments seemed the aptest.
Congratulations on being awarded an $8000 grant from the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment, can you share with us more about how your initiative won the SG Eco Fund and your thoughts on winning the grant?
The process of obtaining the grant involved submitting a deck to the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment, and upon making it to the second round, the two of us made a pitch to a panel of civil servants from the ministry sharing with them our vision, and plans for the project.
Naturally the whole team is elated to have this immense opportunity. Having funding, as well as MSE’s seal of approval has really opened so many doors for the project in terms of expanding the team, partnerships and new undertakings.
How do you plan to utilise the $8000? What are the goals you hope to achieve through this platform? What can we see next?
With this round of funding we are targeting three main areas of growth.
The first is social media. Our Instagram account has been the main driver of engagement with our project thus far and until now has been managed by poor Sage alone with some input from Nadya. We have now assembled a dedicated team of writers, graphic designers and a new PR head to oversee its strategic growth and curation, facilitated by the funding we now have for targeted advertisements and analytics.
Additionally, on the research side of things, we have onboarded university students to serve as analysts for our project. With Alex at the helm of this push to expand our website content, we hope to produce insightful and accessible analysis on topics related to ESG and green finance.
We are also allocating funding to grow our ESG database of sorts called “The BAUM Matrix”, which under the guidance of Sage aims to provide insights into various companies through an amalgamation of various ESG, financial and economic indicators. We hope to introduce tools which will help our users to craft individualised portfolios based on their personal risk tolerance, ESG objectives, and timeline.
Any advice/encouragement to alumni who would like to embark on similar collaborative projects?
I suppose the best advice we could give is just go for it. Admittedly not the most profound or erudite sounding, but the greatest obstacle to starting an initiative is the inertia to even starting. Don’t worry if your concept needs refining – as the two of us know all too well – there is no perfect idea, and the futile pursuit of one only hinders action. There will always be time to tweak and to hone down the road.
Bring on people you already know through the priceless networks the school has set you up with, and don’t be afraid to bring new people on (being a bit thick skinned and cold emailing never hurt anyone). At the end of the day, it is the people who make or break the project. Having a good team that you enjoy working with really makes all the difference, and the two of us couldn’t be more grateful for the team we have at BAUM.
How do your family, and friends react to this initiative that you have put forth?
My mother was particularly tickled by my involvement in the project. She was the original environmentalist in the family, taking up a master’s in environmental management as a mid-career shift away from legal practice. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue the MSE eco-fund, and I think perhaps it was my formative memories of her studying for the course when I was young which caused the project to resonate with me so well.
My family and friends have been nothing short of supportive and many of them have become increasingly interested in sustainable investing, which I find highly encouraging. I think that sustainable investing has become a mainstay. It informs the thesis of many big investment funds and is a growing trend in ESG. Even Singapore is working to establish itself as a green financial hub in Asia.
What are some of the balancing acts that you will need to do to keep this passion of yours alive?
Balancing my commitments to the project and to my platoon (my two children at the moment) is not always easy, but my stance has always been that when you are passionate about something, finding the time will follow in kind.
What type of attitude do you think is needed for a more sustainable future?
We believe that our generation needs to become more active stewards of our planet and its people. It is important to cultivate sustainable values in young people today, to guide future collaborative thought and action. The qualities of fervour, ingenuity and empathy among the youth give plenty to be optimistic about.