I met Clare Murray through our common Columbia Business School connection roots over a year ago. Like many business school colleagues, she was looking for a way to use her finance background and skills to contribute to social change. She was already involved with BlackRock’s Sustainable Investing work, but looking for a more direct connection to investments that would make life better in poor communities around the world. Now, Clare has successfully landed a great impact investing role – here are her tips for others looking to make a similar transition.
Nell Derick Debevoise: What’s your current role?
Clare Murray: I’m a Director of Strategy at LeapFrog Investments, which is a global private equity firm dedicated to impact investing. I’m based between New York and Sydney, Australia. LeapFrog is a “Profit with Purpose” investor in businesses that provide critical financial tools, such as insurance, and healthcare services and products to a low income or financially excluded consumer class across Africa and Asia.
To date, LeapFrog has reached over 110 million people, the majority being women and children, across 23 countries in Africa and Asia. Over 93.9 million of those individuals are emerging consumers, living on less than $10 a day, often accessing quality financial tools and healthcare for the first time. 114,626 jobs and livelihoods are supported by the investments LeapFrog has made in Asia and Africa.
Debevoise: Tell us about your transition. It was a big one, right?
Murray: Prior to joining LeapFrog I worked at BlackRock in New York within institutional sales, advising US college endowments, foundations and family offices. At BlackRock, I became very involved in building out their sustainable investing platform and educating clients about this space. I also completed an executive MBA at Columbia University in May of this year. When I started my job search, I knew I wanted to work at a financial firm focused on impact investing.
Over time, I was able to hone my search to a dedicated impact investing firm in either private equity or real estate that focused on generating non-concessionary returns. The non-concessionary returns are critical because I want to develop investment products for traditional investors. If traditional investors, such as sovereign wealth funds, endowments and pension funds, are able to make impact investments that meet their fiduciary obligations, they can deploy substantial capital to make a positive difference. $3-4 trillion (USD) flow through the capital markets daily.
I wanted a role that included product development to be part of building financial products that allow investors to meet their fiduciary obligations while also achieve positive societal outcomes. This is the path to unlocking those trillions of dollars in the capital markets to fund the businesses that are helping poor communities around the world.
Finally, I grew up in New York and worked at BlackRock and Goldman Sachs. I knew that I wanted to work internationally at some point. While global exposure wasn’t a requirement for me in this job search, I was open to the idea of an international placement or significant international travel.
Debevoise: What was scary to you about that big shift?
Murray: For me there was a lot of change all at once. I changed location (NYC to Sydney). I changed roles (sales to strategy). I changed firms (BlackRock to LeapFrog). I’ve heard that you’re only supposed to change one major thing at a time – location, job, or personal life. I was worried that this would be too much change to handle all at once.
Fortunately, so far it has all worked out. That being said, I have certainly learned that I can’t control everything. It has made me prioritize what I need to deal with at this moment and what can I tackle later, or even completely let go of controlling and trust that it will sort itself out.
Debevoise: What was the hardest thing once you made the transition?
Murray: For me it was the size of the firm. This is the first time I’ve worked at a small company. There are certainly pros and cons but all of it made for a very different working environment. LeapFrog employs 80 people globally; while GS and BlackRock have over 10,000 employees.
I’ve never missed a global, in-house tech help team as much as I currently do. I got a bit spoiled being able to call a tech support team at any hour of any day with any question, and getting answers immediately. That being said, I certainly recognize the value now in learning how to roll up my sleeves and figure things out myself. Though you’re not going to find me working at Apple’s Genius Bar anytime soon!
Debevoise: What was the most fun?
Murray: The most fun part of the new job is the learning curve. When you’ve been at the same company for 5 years, even with increasing responsibilities, you have a good sense of the day-to-day work, internal operations and how things get done. At LeapFrog, I’m working with people and organizational dynamics that have different strengths and weaknesses than I had dealt with before. Every day is different and I love that I’m constantly learning something new.