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Spotlight: Meet Meredith Benton of Whistle Stop Capital

The Out & About Blog Spotlight Series elevates insight from the financial service industry’s best and brightest. We cover challenging topics around diversity, inclusion, purpose, and inspiring the next generation. 

Through sharing insights and best practices, together we can shape the future of the financial services industry and support improved access to qualified, ethical financial advice and resources for all.

For this week’s spotlight, we interviewed Meredith Benton, founder and principal of Whistle Stop Capital in San Francisco. 

image1-Jul-30-2020-05-53-27-48-PMWhat made you decide to pursue a career in finance?

The investments we make build the world we live in. People often forget how strong that link is. When we provide capital to a company to support its growth, we allow the visions and values of its leaders to come to life. If we want a just and sustainable world, we need to be active stewards of our investments and ensure that the capital we provide aligns with the world we seek to create. When done thoughtfully, we are able to marry the creation of strong financial returns with making a positive change in the world.

What part of your work gives you the most satisfaction?

Whistle Stop Capital is a pioneering consultancy focused on integrating environmental, social and governance data into the portfolio management process, as well as building shareholder engagement strategies linked to strengthened share value within existing portfolio holdings. The work we do has encouraged greater corporate transparency, reduced harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and improved environmental conditions. We have done this while strengthening our clients' returns and helping them grow their businesses.

What needs to be done to diversify the financial services industry?

Firms have begun to report their workforce composition data, releasing the diversity characteristics of existing employees. They are now being called to also release the promotion, recruitment, and retention rates of their diverse employees, alongside pay equity data. The adoption of this best practice in corporate transparency will allow stakeholders — clients, employees, investors and others — to understand the effectiveness of a firm's inclusion programs. At a minimum, firms, regardless of their current workforce challenges, should be willing to speak to their future goals and the data that they are using to track their own progress.

What advice would you give financial professionals just beginning their career?

There are two essential steps I encourage all of my students and mentees to follow (I teach a capstone business and ethics course at San Francisco State.)

1) Grow and tend to your network — excluding no one. It is impossible to predict where the winds of fate will blow you, or your colleagues. Offer a tethering line when you are able.

2) Find and use your own voice. This is essential in sustaining your own energy and commitment to your work. It also increases your ability to bring something new and meaningful into the conversation.

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