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Advisor POV: Zach Stein on the People Clamoring for a Climate-Driven Retirement Portfolio

Advisor POV: Zach Stein on the People Clamoring for a Climate-Driven Retirement Portfolio

Quick Facts

Name: Zach Stein
Resides in: California
Company: Carbon Collective
Role: Co-Founder
Number of years in the industry: 2
Favorite industry news source: Bloomberg
Custodian of choice: Apex Clearinghouse
Favorite book: The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber

Zach's Path to Advising and ESG

How did you get into 401(k) advising? At Carbon Collective, we have a climate-focused robo-advisor, and employees at sustainability-driven companies kept reaching out to us, asking how they could get portfolios like ours in their 401(k). So we looked into it and saw that our specialty of climate impact could be very helpful in the 401(k) space. Then, we found a great partner in Vestwell to help us deliver a great 401(k) experience for our clients and give them the portfolio options they’re looking for.

What motivated you to make your career in climate-impact investing? Urban agriculture was my gateway into sustainability. Out of college, I did an urban farming fellowship that really impacted me, opening my eyes to the ways we're running our civilization in fundamentally unsustainable ways. Two other events shaped my career choice: First, the advent of "fire season" in the Bay Area, which showed me that if we don't dramatically change course, my home, and many others, will become more dangerous to live in. Second, the 2018 IPCC report, saying we had 12 years to halve global carbon emissions, drove the point home for me that climate is the issue of our time.

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Lessons on Climate-Impact Investing

What is one trend you foresee impacting plan advisors over the next few years? We think that more and more companies are going to feel pressure from their employees to offer mission-aligned perks like 401(k) s. If you serve 401(k) clients and you’re not comfortable on the sustainable investing front, come chat with us. We’d love to share what we’ve learned.

Do you see a greater move toward climate-impact investing as "inevitable?" Absolutely. We started Carbon Collective because sustainable investing is broken. We can solve climate change largely by deploying profitable existing technologies at a rapid scale. To do so, we need sustainable investing to massively increase from its current levels today. Also, sustainable and climate investing is not charity. The fossil fuel industry is in a long-term decline. Renewable energy and electric cars are winning in the marketplace, not because greenies like me prefer them but because they have better economics.

On Running an Advising Practice

What is a lesson you wish you had learned earlier in your career? I feel like I’m finally good at brainstorming and idea creation. It took me about 10 years to learn to leave my ego out of it and truly go in curiously searching for the best idea or solution to a problem.

What’s the best advice you ever received? Listen. Truly listen to people. Repeat back what they said to you to confirm they understand. Everything goes so much smoother when you listen.

Where do you find your leads? They largely come to us!

What advice do you have for those thinking of starting their own practice? Read the book “The Mom Test,” and make sure that folks will really want what you’re selling before you make any changes.

Lastly, the Fun Stuff

What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you used to rock? I just had a kid, and I am FULLY embracing the dad-look.