Abacus Wealth Partners, a Los Angeles–based registered investment advisor specializing in impact investing, has merged with Robasciotti & Philipson, a San Francisco–headquartered RIA that focuses on social justice investing, creating a $3.8 billion firm.
Robasciotti & Philipson will come under the Abacus name, and the merger will allow its co-founders, Rachel Robasciotti and Maya Philipson, to focus on Adasina Social Capital, their social justice investing firm launched in 2020, and the Adasina Social Justice All Cap Global ETF. Robasciotti and Philipson will serve in part-time strategic roles at Abacus as director of advocacy engagement and strategic advisor, respectively; they will no longer serve their advisory clients on a day-to-day basis.
“What quickly became apparent is that Rachel and I felt torn between two worlds—our wealth management world, which has supported us, and our clients there, who are the most wonderful people, and the new innovative work that we were doing with Adasina Social Capital and our ETF,” Philipson said.
R&P, which has about $130 million in client assets across 115 households, is a women- and Black-owned firm, and has focused on building a diverse client base. Over 85% of the firm’s clients are women, and 60% identify as queer, Philipson said.
And while Abacus’s ownership may not be as diverse as R&P’s, the firm has a diversity and inclusion initiative, and aims to include not just advisors of diverse backgrounds but also clients, something R&P will help them achieve, said Brent Kessel, co-founder and CEO of Abacus.
R&P will also provide the building blocks for Abacus’ new social justice portfolio, which it hasn’t yet launched. Kessel said the firm is using Philipson and her team as the experts on best practices in the social justice investing space. Abacus will be using their approach, which is to screen investment ideas by connecting with the individuals impacted by a firm's policies. For instance, they helped launch the Force the Issue campaign, which is focused on forced arbitration for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. A lot of attention in ESG circles focuses on more easily quantifiable goals, like how many women a company has on the board or in senior management.
“The people in the impacted community were saying, ‘That’s nice, but the really important thing to us is that we not be subjected to forced arbitration if we have one of these claims,’ which tend to be more corporation-friendly and employee-unfriendly,” Kessel said.
“We’re going to be helping Abacus kind of take some of the learnings that we have had over the years and implement that both in their own portfolios in creating a social justice model for Abacus clients, but also in the way that Abacus approaches their own client base,” Philipson said.
R&P will also bring a focus on “wealth redistribution planning,” a new skill set for Abacus. Wealth redistribution is for clients who don’t want their wealth to just grow or even stay on their balance sheet in perpetuity, but rather want to spread their wealth to people in underserved communities or organizations.
“Rather, they’re looking for the most effective ways to invest in and give it away to create the most impact they can, in either particular areas or just broadly,” Kessel said. “That’s kind of counter-cultural in the Certified Financial Planner world. We’ve all been trained like, the worst thing in the world is that your client spends down all their money. It takes a different mindset.”
“We had a lot of clients at R&P who really strongly believe that we live in an unequal and unjust economic system, where 10% of the people in America own 90% of the stock market,” Philipson said.
This type of financial planning helps clients plan for impact opportunities that may come up in the future, how fast or slow to spend down their money, and how to invest along the way for a positive impact.
“There are a lot of folks—especially millennials and Gen Zs—they don’t want us to assume that they just want to grow their wealth as much as possible and die and leave it to their kids and grandkids,” Kessel said.
Abacus has specialized in impact investing for decades, starting with negative screen index funds in the 1990s, which were opt in. But by 2008, the firm was offering various other ESG strategies beyond negative screening.
“We have proven and strongly believe that there’s no sacrifice in returns,” Kessel said.