Our panel of experts grappled with several critical ideas surrounding the controversy, efficacy, and future of ESG investing. They explored the following questions, among others:
Can ESG-focused investing produce the best returns while also positively impacting the world?
Shouldn’t a responsible wealth manager just focus on returns and allow the investor to choose whether and how to change the world with their earnings?
Can a misguided ESG emphasis cause more harm than good to both the investor and those on the ground who are supposed to benefit from a specific investment strategy?
Can specifically Catholic values be integrated and given preference in an overall ESG strategy?
Catherine Flax is the President of Private Markets at X Machina Capital Strategies. As a passionate coach, advisor, mentor, board member, and trustee, she brings decades of experience in building successful businesses in financial services, technology, professional services, and commodities.
Most recently, Catherine served as CEO of Pefin, the world’s first artificial intelligence financial advisor. Earlier, she worked at BNP Paribas, where she served as CEO, commodities, foreign exchange, and emerging markets. Catherine also worked at J.P. Morgan, serving as both CMO globally, as well as CEO, commodities EMEA. She has also previously served as a board member for J.P. Morgan Securities, Limited, Digital Asset Holdings, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).
Catherine earned her BS in economics from Texas A&M University and her MA in economics from Brown University. In 2011, she was named the “Most Influential Woman in European Financial Markets”. Catherine currently serves on the advisory boards of some of the world’s most Innovative companies. She also is a board member of the Aggies on Wall Street Program at Texas A&M University, as well as a trustee at the Holy Family Church in New York City.
Richard A. Fontes, CFA, is ESG Product Manager at State Street Corporation. He focuses on integrating ESG factors and data sets into State Street’s products and services across the investment lifecycle such as investment decisions making tools in the front-end performance and attribution tools in the middle-office and environmental attribute accounting platforms in the back office. He envisions new ways of integrating ESG considerations into business lines such as private markets, impact investing, and access to carbon markets. Richard focuses on product strategy and development, marketing and commercialization efforts, and project management.
Richard holds a B.S. in Business Administration and Finance from Merrimack College. He earned an M.B.A. at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University with a concentration in ESG and Impact Investing. While at Questrom, he was a member of a team of faculty and practitioners engaged in research projects examining the materiality of metrics used in impact investing and examining the Green Bond market.
Richard lives in suburban Boston and is passionate about exploring the outdoors, sailing, and crossfitting. He is a committed, practicing Catholic who shares that his Faith “informs everything he does”.
A Pittsburgh native, Chris is an accomplished entrepreneur and devoted family man. MFA Wealth, the company Chris founded in 1986, is today one of Pennsylvania’s most prolific firms of its kind and expanding rapidly nationwide. For 35 years, Chris and his associates have advised clients in the areas of comprehensive financial planning, asset allocation, retirement planning and estate tax minimization techniques. Chris is a pioneer in technology-enabled methodology in financial services especially the practical deployment of artificial intelligence and quantitative analytics. Mastery of these advanced techniques has enabled MFA Wealth to grow exponentially in terms of assets under management and deliver excellent returns on behalf of clients. MFA Wealth is annually rated one of Pittsburgh’s best places to work and for seven straight years has been listed on AdvisoryHQ’s prestigious Top Ranked Wealth Management Firms list. In 2020, Chris founded Aquinas Wealth Advisors as President and CEO. Aquinas Wealth Advisors is an investment firm that deploys cutting-edge technology to provide values-driven investors unparalleled capability to craft portfolios congruent with their deeply held beliefs – with no adverse impact on returns.
In 2019, Chris received the coveted Fox Rothschild Outstanding CEO award, adding to a long list of prior industry recognitions he has earned. In early 2022, Forbes magazine ranked Chris the #42 financial security professional in America, and Smart Business Pittsburgh recognized Chris amongst its prestigious Smart 50 honorees. Also in 2022, Chris was named the Catholic Finance Professional of the Year by the Manhattan-based Catholic Finance Association, the national membership association for Catholic finance professionals.
Chris is a man of virtue and very strong integrity. His reputation is impeccable, and he upholds the highest moral standards. Chris and his wife Molly are prolific philanthropists and believe in giving back. The apex of their charity work is Mary’s Place for Moms – serving all the needs of pregnant women in Western Pennsylvania at no expense for women in need. The McMahons envisioned and launched Mary’s Place at the vanguard of a steering committee of leading Pittsburghers in 2019. Sisters of Life, Little Sisters of the Poor, Mount Lebanon Pension Board, and the Duquesne University Board of Directors are some of the other organizations Chris is very active in. Within the Catholic Church, he is a Knight of Columbus and the chapter founder of Legatus in Pittsburgh. Chris is a distinguished leader in Legatus, the world’s only membership organization for Roman Catholic CEOs and senior level corporate executives, and today serves as Vice Chairman of the international governing board, progressing upward from his previous service as President of the Pittsburgh Legatus chapter. Chris was elected to the Union League of Philadelphia in 2020, the leading patriotic association in the United States and our nation’s top-ranked City Club. He is also a longtime member of the Duquesne Club and the Laurel Valley Golf Club.
Chris graduated from Duquesne University in 1986 with a BA in economics. He also earned the ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) designation from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in 1990. In 2005, Chris earned the AWMA (Accredited Wealth Management Advisor) designation through the College for Financial Planning in Denver, Colorado. Chris and Molly are the proud parents of Kate, Will, Jack, Hugh, and Emma. Chris is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, taekwondo and hapkido. The McMahons live in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Stone Harbor, New Jersey.