Greg Wait featured in Your ESG investment may be a ‘light touch’ fund and not as green as you think

Marketwatch. January 4, 2021

Environmental, social and governance investing resonates with people who want their investments to align with their values, and the boom in this investing style has fund companies launching more ESG investment vehicles.

But these funds may not be as green as investors think they are.

ESG investing considers both financial return and social and environmental good. But just as investors can disagree on where to draw the line between value and growth investment styles, they can come to different conclusions about how well companies are delivering in these areas. There are no U.S. nor global standards.

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Greg Wait featured in Here’s how you can add sustainable investments to your 401(k) holdings even if your plan doesn’t include ESG funds

Marketwatch. November 13, 2020

Even as the Trump administration actively discourages environmental, social and governance investing in employer-sponsored retirement plans — a rule the Biden administration may overturn — it’s not like investors had a lot of ESG choices to begin with.

When Morningstar looked at lineups for defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s or 403(b)s , the research firm found only 4.5% of these plans offered at least one sustainable fund — that is a fund that intentionally incorporates ESG.

But for those who want to invest that way, there are ways to do it within the company-sponsored retirement plan. It just takes some legwork to find them. Read more


Riverwater Partners’ Statement on Racial Equity

June 11, 2020

Worldwide protests over the past weeks spurred by the killing of George Floyd have brought our society to what we can only hope is a tipping point. We recognize that the effects of racial inequalities are pervasive and profound. In addition to unjust and unnecessary violence, disproportionately devastating realities in the Black community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have further highlighted the effects of systemic racism. Read more

SRI Investments in 401(k) Plans: High Demand, Low Supply

Benefits Magazine. February 2020

Greg Wait of Riverwater authored an article for the February 2020 edition of Benefits Magazine that looks into the limited availability of SRI Investments in 401(k) plans and offers solutions to plan sponsors wanting to respond to the increasing demand for SRI investment from participants.  Read more

Riverwater Partners Acquires Falcons Rock Investment

Pensions & Investments. September 3, 2019

Riverwater Partners, a domestic small- and midcap equity manager that specializes in responsible investing, acquired financial adviser Falcons Rock Investment Counsel, confirmed Riverwater spokeswoman Jody R. Lowe.

Terms of the deal, which closed Aug. 30, were not disclosed.

This acquisition brings Riverwater’s assets under management to more than $500 million.

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Adam Peck featured on “Money Life by Chuck Jaffe” podcast

Click here to listen to Adam’s June 24, 2019 interview with Chuck.  Money Life Show website

Riverwater Partners LLC I.Q. [Innovation Quotient]: Award Winners

Biz Times, May 27, 2019

Riverwater Partners was the first Certified B Corporation in Milwaukee and the eighth in the state since 2016. Established in 2016, the company was also among the first investment advisory firms dedicated to Environmental, Social & Governance investing in Wisconsin.

The nonprofit B Lab designates for-profit companies as B Corps for meeting its social and environmental standards. ESG-focused investing allows Riverwater to engage with public companies to affect factors like increasing board diversity, conserving natural resources, and ensuring that business practices are held to the most ethical standards.

“We thought it was the right thing to do,” said Adam Peck, founder of Riverwater Partners. “We look to invest in companies that aren’t only making money, but are also making a positive impact on the world.”

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Wisconsin’s B Corporations Want to be a Force for Good, Not Just Profit

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 10, 2019

When Milwaukee-based Riverwater Partners LLC picks companies to invest in, it looks at all the typical financial metrics like cash flow and valuation.

But it also takes into account the company’s environmental, social and governance practices.

To prove Riverwater Partners is “walking the walk,” the small investment firm applied for B Corporation certification, joining the ranks of Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Klean Kanteen. The certification is issued to for-profit companies by the nonprofit B Lab. The “B” stands for benefit.

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Riverwater Partners Attains B Corp™ Status

PR Web, September 12, 2018

Socially Responsible investment firm becomes Milwaukee’s first business to join global movement of companies committed to using business as a “force for good”

Riverwater Partners, a socially responsible investment advisory firm, has officially become the first Milwaukee company, and only investment advisor in Wisconsin, to achieve B Corp certification. B Corp Certification is for businesses what an organic seal is for food products: a corporations’ commitment to meeting the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.  There are more than 2,600 Certified B Corporations in over 150 industries and 60 countries with 1 unifying goal – to redefine success in business.

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Companies’ Social Impact Increasingly Scrutinized by Investors

Biz Times Milwaukee, Feb 5, 2018

Last month, BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, sent a letter to CEOs of the world’s largest public companies putting them on notice: they need to go beyond profits and do good for all of their stakeholders to gain its favor. “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” wrote BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink. These investment strategies are sometimes called socially responsible investment; sustainable, responsible and impact investing; and environmental, social and governance investing.

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Investing with Environmental and Social Impact

Milwaukee Business Journal, May 2018

More and more investors are looking beyond the bottom line when it comes to investing. They’re seeking out companies that have diverse leadership teams and are socially and environmentally responsible as well.

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Smarter Buildings On The Rise

Biz Times Milwaukee, August 18, 2017

If temperatures get a little too toasty in the offices at 1433 N. Water St. in downtown Milwaukee and they need to come down ASAP, there’s an app for that. “Our maintenance engineers and property managers are able to access real-time building information and the viability of each piece of equipment in the building through an app on a phone or through a dedicated secure laptop – one in the building and one they carry with them,” said Anne White, development executive assistant with Wangard Partners Inc., the developer and owner of the building.

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An Unimaginable Year and 2021 Outlook

2020 Q4

As we review 2020 and position for the future, it goes without saying that the past year was exceptional and unpredictable. Who in their right mind could have imagined a global pandemic, racial injustice protests, the worst economic decline in history and a contentious election that resulted in an insurrectionist storming of the US Capitol? No one.

Nor would anyone in a million years have guessed at the depths of the bear market in late March that global stock markets would have performed like they have. In March, the virus was ripping through New York, Italy and China and taking the global economy down with it.

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Survival of the Fittest

2020 Q3

The market rally that began in March continues its historic run. In stark contrast with what is happening on Main Street, Wall Street has performed exceptionally well, with the S&P 500 posting its best two consecutive quarters in the last 20 years! That incredible performance has not been uniform across all market segments; value stocks in particular have not kept up with growth stocks and lag by over 36% in just the last 9 months – the largest delta since 1979. The economy, while improving from the bottom, is still far from normalized output levels. Not surprisingly, investors have responded by shunning businesses such as banks, energy companies, airlines, and others that similarly rely on an improving economy. Investors have instead paid up for businesses that grow irrespective of the general economy as growth is so hard to come by for many companies.

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The New “New” Normal

2020 Q2

There are many superlatives to choose from to describe last quarter’s rally. This winter saw the quickest pivot to a bear market in history, followed by an equally rapid rebound in the spring. In fact, we just experienced the strongest 100-day rally since 1933.

After the market bottomed on March 23rd, the Nasdaq returned to its all-time high and the S&P 500 got close to even for the year. Some market segments – small capitalization stocks, international markets and non-investment grade credit – have not rebounded all the way back, but have certainly recovered a good chunk of their losses.

It is hard to square market returns with macroeconomic realities. GDP is predicted to have its steepest decline in history this quarter, layoffs continue in the job market, and COVID-19 cases are flaring across more than 30 states, with many states even reversing re-openings.

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Covid-19 Crisis

2020 Q1

We hope that you, your family, and loved ones are holding up and doing well in these unprecedented times.

There is no need to explain in detail what happened to the markets during the first quarter; we are all too familiar with the declines. That said, it was the worst quarter since 1987 and the worst return ever for a first quarter. Compounded with the anxiety and fear brought on by the global health pandemic, the unknown path for the economy post-pandemic has caused investors tremendous anxiety. And with reason. When markets drop, the loss felt by most investors is twice as strong as the joy felt from a similar sized gain. In cognitive psychology this is called loss aversion and is rooted in evolution. To survive, we are primed to fear loss as it could threaten our existence.

In addition to loss aversion, fight or flight is another instinctive reaction to the pain of watching investments decline. As investors, who play a passive role, we cannot control how the companies and funds we invest in operate or how they react to COVID-19 (where we do have control is hoarding toilet paper).

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What companies are doing in their ESG journey

What Are Companies Doing in Their ESG Journeys?

In 2011, only 20% of S&P 500 Index companies issued a sustainability report. By 2019, that figure had quadrupled to 90%. One driver of this change is investor demand. As more people seek to invest in alignment with their values, companies have responded by providing more information. Another driver is recognition by company management teams…

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ESG in the Marketplace

[This] response to the COVID-19 health crisis is one example of how ESG efforts undertaken by public companies can benefit not only societies in which they operate, but the corporate shareholders as well. — As COVID-19 continues to spread and severely impact the economy of the United States and other countries around the world, Quest…

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Is There a Performance Disadvantage to ESG Investing?

[Riverwater Partners’] highly integrative process can enable our clients to invest according to their values while also opening up the possibility of not only no performance disadvantage but, as is our goal over the long term, a performance advantage. — For many years, the primary approach taken by “responsible” investors was to screen out certain…

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Proxy Voting Chart

Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights

We recently wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the rights of shareholders and their ability to proxy vote. You can read what was sent below: — Attention: Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights NPRM Office of Regulations and Interpretations Employee Benefits Security Administration Room N-5655 U.S. Department of Labor 200 Constitution Avenue NW Washington,…

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Active Ownership

What is Active Ownership?

At Riverwater, we actively engage with the companies in which we invest. Specifically, we do so in situations where we believe our efforts can help make a material difference in supporting a company’s ESG efforts—whether educating them on the benefits of beginning to incorporate ESG and offering resources to help them do so, or working…

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Proposed DOL Plan to Limit ESG

Bad Policy = Bad Outcomes

Re: Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments Proposed Regulation (RIN 1210-AB95) Dear Director Canary: Riverwater Partners LLC is an independent, employee-owned, registered investment advisory firm based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, serving families, nonprofits, and institutions. We invest in superior businesses with exceptional management teams, attractive valuations, and a focus on social responsibility and sustainability. As fiduciaries…

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Is ESG Investing a Fad?

Some investing styles, such as value investing, have proven themselves useful over the course of many decades. By contrast, investing fads are short-lived. They look promising in a particular market context but fade away as the world changes. Examples include day trading, house flipping, and, in our view, Bitcoin and liquid alternative investments. What about…

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The ABC’s of ESG Investing

Coined in 2005 in a landmark study entitled “Who Cares Wins,” which made the case that embedding environmental, social, and governance factors in capital markets makes good business sense and leads to better outcomes for society, ‘ESG’ is getting a lot of attention. Individuals, particularly young ones, are liking what they hear.  Companies are paying…

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Certified B Corporation

Why We Became a B Corp

B the Change™ – inspired by Gandhi’s famous invocation that we must be the change we seek in the world.   As a socially responsible investment advisory firm, Riverwater Partners is proud to have officially become the first Milwaukee company and the only investment advisor in Wisconsin (as of September 2018)  to achieve B Corp™…

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Value(s) Investing* Spotlight: ShotSpotter (SSTI)

After the school shooting in Parkland, this past February, Bloomberg reported that the Florida Teachers’ Pension Fund was invested in the maker of the same gun used in the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.[1] The shooting in Parkland and the countless gun-related tragedies in the last few years have divided the nation in…

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Riverwater TV Commercial

Myths of ESG Investing

The What and Why of ESG


Straight A’s and Sustainability

2019 Q4

When you bring straight A’s home from school you don’t have much explaining to do. That was 2019 for financial markets. Most major indices were up more than 20% and bonds rallied in concert with stocks. The decade exited with a bang as the S&P 500 closed with a plus 13% annualized return – well above its historic average. It is truly amazing that such significant changes can occur in a relatively short span of ten years. Back in late 2009 no one was buying Christmas presents or watching Home Alone on their smartphones.

Scientists largely believe that Homo Sapiens have been on the planet for about 195,000 years. It took about 150,000 years for the “Great Leap Forward” when people began burying their dead and using animal hides for clothing. Skipping forward another 40,000 years, or 10,000 years ago, agriculture developed and spread. It then took another 5,000 years for writing to develop. Finally, some 5,000 years after that we got the iPhone! (There you go – the history of the world in one short paragraph).

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Windshields, Bumps in the Road & The Right to Water

2019 Q3

We were happy to announce the acquisition of Falcons Rock last month and are thrilled to add Greg Wait and Liz Kiefer to the Riverwater team. Riverwater and Falcons Rock share similar philosophies around responsible investing and we believe the combined entities are both stronger and better positioned to generate greater impact together going forward. For the new clients and readers of our quarterly letter, we welcome you and look forward to meeting soon.


The S&P 500 hit an all-time high in July and finished about 2% off of that high at quarter’s end. Small cap stocks, on the other hand, last peaked in August of 2018 and have a flat return going back to October of 2017. Markets have fluctuated weekly, if not daily, on trade tariffs and Federal Reserve news. Additionally, political winds in DC seem more likely to turn into gusts with Congress initiating impeachment hearings on the President.

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Record Highs and a Record Win!

2019 Q2

Equity markets notched another fine quarter to close out the first half of the year with gains across the board. The first six months of the year marks the strongest stock market since 1997. There are many reasons markets are hitting all-time highs: employment is strong, the economy just broke the record for the longest expansion in history, and most investors now expect the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates this year.

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Nice Market Lyft!

2019 Q1

From a performance standpoint, the first quarter of 2019 was essentially the inverse of the previous quarter; in Q4 2018 it was hard to find a winner whereas this quarter it was hard to find a loser.  The market experienced the best first quarter in over 20 years, a sharp 180 from December’s performance which was the worst since 1931.  The volatility in the market is proof that investors are better off staying focused on the long-term and ignoring market gyrations. Those that hyper focus when markets are falling often end up selling out at the bottom.

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The Santa Claus Rout

2018 Q4

The market’s year end was both interesting and historically quite rare. Going back to 1950, December has been historically the best performing month, with an average monthly return of 1.53% compared to a 0.50% return for the other 11. The Santa Claus Rally failed to materialize in 2018 with broad markets down across the board and we experienced the worst Christmas Eve in the history of the market. The last time December was this weak was in 1931, making this the worst fourth quarter we can remember.

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It Just Keeps Going and Going…

2018 Q3

The best way to describe the end of the third quarter is to steal the Energizer Bunny’s tagline, “it just keeps going and going…”[1] The end of September marked the longest running bull market since World War II and the longest most investors have seen in their lifetimes. Equity markets in the US were up across the board and growth stocks continued to outpace value stocks by a wide margin. (As value investors, we look forward to a reversal.)

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Tariffs and Action on the Soccer (Football) Field

2018 Q2

The second quarter equity markets were dominated by headlines surrounding the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs. The tariff talk subsequently turned into action with new tariffs enacted by the US, China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union, India and Turkey.

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Defensive Investing and Recognizing Failure

2018 Q1

The first quarter could very well turn out to be a memorable inflection point in this 10-year bull market. The broad indices ended their nine-quarter streak of positive returns, volatility returned with markets moving up or down with much greater magnitude, and the bull market leaders Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google are not looking so bulletproof anymore.

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Everything is Relative

2017 Q4

It doesn’t get much better than this! Double digit gains across major stock indices, twelve straight months where the S&P 500 never went down (first time in its history), and record low volatility. The economy is finally out of second gear with GDP at +3%, unemployment levels at 18-year lows, consumer confidence at levels not seen since 2004, and tax rates heading lower.

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Value Investing: The Only Constant is Change

2017 Q3

Another quarter in the books and another quarter where equity markets had broad-based gains. Our benchmarks, the Russell 2500 and Russell 1000 Value, were up 4.7% and 3.1% respectively, while every sector in the S&P 500 was up except for Consumer Staples.

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Spoiled Investors

2017 Q2

We, as stock investors, have been spoiled as markets continue to go up with virtually no downside. The VIX, or CBOE Volatility Index, has been trading at its lowest level in 25 years. How long can this investment environment exist?

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A Quiet Start, Buying and Holding Stocks

2017 Q1

In sharp contrast to wild ride at the end of 2016, 2017 began in remarkably calm fashion. While U.S. stock markets were broadly higher, gains occurred with the least volatility since 1965. Over the entire quarter, there were only two days when the S&P 500 moved more than 1% from one day to the next and these movements were relatively unremarkable; once up 1.4% and once down 1.2%.

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Emotional Investing

2016 Q4

2016 was a tumultuous year for the election pollsters and odd makers. What was more improbable: the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series or a billionaire winning the White House?

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Riverwater Partners Invests Beside You and Our Three Pillar Approach

2016 Q3

Another quarter in the books and another quarter where equity markets had broad-based gains. Our benchmarks, the Russell 2500 and Russell 1000 Value, were up 4.7% and 3.1% respectively, while every sector in the S&P 500 was up except for Consumer Staples.

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