Nine years ago, Ron Levin and Ben Kovler formed Invest For Kids (IFK) with three goals in mind: to bring together highly regarded investment managers to present their best investable ideas, to create a community for Chicago investors, and to support under-resourced Chicago youth.
Inspired by New York’s Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference, Kovler and Levin set out to replicate the model for their hometown of Chicago. With a similar premise of attracting a wide variety of financial professionals, the differentiating factor for Invest For Kids lies in the content. Rather than present broad market views, IFK features seven high-profile speakers to deliver short, 15-minute presentations sharing their investable ideas for the year to come. The ideas have a proven track record of performing. A $1 million stake in an equally weighted basket of ideas from inception would have grown to an impressive $2.8 million as of March 2017.
“A unique element of this conference is that the speakers provide specific, investable ideas, and then are accountable to the performance of those ideas,” says David Scherer, principal of Origin Investments and an Invest For Kids advisory board member. “The index of their ideas has repeatedly outperformed the markets, resulting in great financial return.”
The content of the investable ideas conference is evergreen, featuring speakers who can address the most current, and sometimes controversial, trends. This year’s event will feature Bart Stephens, expert in cryptocurrency (think bitcoin) and co-founder and managing partner at Blockchain Capital, the first venture capital fund to invest exclusively in the blockchain technology sector. Legendary Sam Zell will speak with acclaimed journalist Bethany McClean about pressing topics including the Amazon Effect on the real estate industry in a longer format fireside chat, and a different kind of investment discussion, investing in the Chicago community, will feature Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Michael Sachs, CEO of GCM Grosvenor. A panel of local emerging investment managers will also have the opportunity to present to this esteemed group of more than 1,000 attendees.
With a deep bench of supporters from the financial industry and a robust following of investment professionals across multiple asset classes, IFK continues to grow as the conference gains national recognition. The caliber of the speakers is world-renowned, and the investable ideas have a proven track record for success: As of Aug. 30, 2017, an equally weighted basket of ideas from last year’s conference has increased by 22 percent, outperforming the S&P by 4.7 percent. Those attending want immediate access to the investment ideas, justifying the $1,200 ticket price per guest. The content creates a platform for community, and these investment professionals show up not only for the potential for great financial gain, but also the philanthropic investment back into the Chicago community.
“There’s something inspiring about over a thousand top investors gathering to support the local community,” says Brian Black, managing director of LAMB Partners; founder and manager of Black Sheep Partners; Half Acre Beer Co. co-founder; and IFK advisory board member. “The platform of Invest For Kids is vastly different from other investment conferences, but beyond that, there is a significant amount of goodwill as a result.”
While the format certainly differs from existing investment conferences, so does the philanthropic model. Since inception in 2009, Invest For Kids has raised more than $10 million and given 100 percent of dollars raised to 54 charitable organizations bettering the lives of more than 75,000 local, disadvantaged youth. The event is generously underwritten by Levin and Kovler, so that the entirety of the funds raised, an anticipated more than $1.5 million for the 2017 conference alone, go directly to the beneficiaries — an impressive and rare philanthropic model.
Invest For Kids has become a trusted entity for philanthropic giving. “We target small to mid-size organizations where we believe our gift can have the greatest impact,” says Levin. “The operating budget for these organizations is typically $1-3 million and, as such, our gift can have an incredible influence on the number of young people served.”
The Invest For Kids donation is often the largest single gift many of the organizations have received and, in many cases, has served to further endorse the organizations, enabling them to attract additional large donors. This, in part, is because of the organization’s lengthy and detailed diligence process. IFK receives more than 100 applications a year. The year-round process ensures a solid investment into organizations with the greatest need, making IFK a trusted grant-making source for serving Chicago’s most at-risk youth. While the exact amount is dependent on ticket sales, each organization is expected to receive a grant of at least $225,000.
“Invest For Kids helped fuel our incredible expansion in two ways: direct funding to increase our reach by two times, and providing credibility to other partners and investors after making it through Invest For Kids’ diligence process,” says Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, former grant recipient and president and artistic director at The People’s Music School.
This year’s Invest For Kids conference will take place Nov. 2 at the Harris Theater. For tickets and more information, visit investforkidschicago.org.
- BUILD, Inc.
- Chicago Run
- Communities In Schools Chicago
- Cradles to Crayons
- Midtown Educational Foundation
- SGA Youth & Family Services
- Dmitry Balyasny (Balyasny Asset Management)
- Arne Duncan (Emerson Collective)
- Rajiv Jain (GQG Partners)
- Mathew Klody (MCN Capital Management LLC)
- Jimmy Levin (Oz Management)
- Alec Litowitz (Magnetar Capital)
- Bethany McLean (freelance journalist)
- Amos Meron (Empyrean Capital Partners)
- Rick Rieder (Blackrock)
- Michael Sacks (Grosvenor Capital Management)
- Seth Singerman (Singerman Real Estate, LLC)
- Bart Stephens (Blockchain Capital)
- Sam Zell (Equity Group Investments)