JOSH CAVRIC

CAPITAL ADVISORY ASSOCIATE, MaRS CENTRE FOR IMPACT INVESTING

Josh is a Capital Advisory Associate at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in Toronto. The centre focuses on developing new financing models that support various stakeholders in solving society’s most pressing issues. Their expertise lies in investing, business development, government policy and international development, allowing them to tackle issues from a variety of perspectives. Josh previously worked at Procter & Gamble as a Brand Manager and in various intelligence roles before transitioning into the impact investing space. He’s completed the Level I and II of the CFA program and is currently a board member of the BridgeWay Family Centre and the Major Gifts board committee of the Ontario Shores Foundation. Learn more about Josh’s career in impact investing below!

JOSH'S CAREER MAP

ABOUT JOSH

SIA: How did you enter this space? 

Josh Cavric: I actually stumbled into impact investing. I had a background in traditional finance, and though I wasn’t looking to get back into finance in a traditional sense, I was looking for work that was more meaningful and that I could be proud to be a part of. I was looking for work that fit this need for meaning and I came across a role that filled my criteria at MaRS. The great thing about impact investing is that you can see and quantify the value of the things which you’re working on, making it very easy to appreciate the value of it. 

From a finance point of view, the space is fascinating to me as there’s quite a bit of financial innovation occurring. Since impact investing is so nascent, new financial instruments— which often take advantage of public/philanthropic funding and outcome mechanisms –are being created regularly, so this space is a great arena to test them out in with very few restrictions.

SIA: Did you always want to work in the impact space?

JC: I didn’t – I think I always desired meaning and positive outcomes in my work. However, that can be hard to find in the corporate world. I was fortunate to find the impact space because its very nature is so closely tied to this meaning and outcome-orientation I wanted in a role.

 

‘Impact’ as a word is odd in that it’s generally understood but difficult to define. In the context of impact investing we’re referring to positive, and ideally quantifiable, impact. Beyond that, it becomes highly personal to the individual in regards to issue area. 

The SDGs are a good way to encapsulate the intention behind the word ‘impact’: anything that improves the state of the world and quality of life for future generations is ‘impact’, regardless of the scale and depth of the impact.

Josh's definition of impact

SIA: What’s next for you, what are your long-term goals?

JC: The tricky thing about entering a space like impact investing is that it changes the way that you see the world, and morphs your goals a bit. As soon as you add that lens of social good over the things that you do it’s hard to remove it.  Viewing your career in a typical progress-and-retire manner feels a little bit less meaningful if you haven’t contributed to the world and lives of others along the way.

 

I don’t know where I’ll find myself in ten years (I didn’t even predict my five-year path correctly!). However, I can safely say that wherever I am, I’d like to continue contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

DAY-TO-DAY, CHALLENGES, MISCONCEPTIONS AND SKILLS

SIA: Could you walk us through a typical workday? What’s your work-life balance like?
JC: Our work is project-based, so the typical workday tends to involve switching between projects that are running concurrently, sort of like a small consultancy. For example, my current major project roster includes projects in the issue areas of mental health, affordable housing, and at-risk youth; two are in outcome-based financing, and the other is a solutions lab. Within this there’s a mix of desk research, financial modeling, presenting deliverables to clients, and regular meetings with our project partners.

 

All in all, the day-to-day is varied according to where we’re at in each project plan. Even with COVID, the work-life balance is quite good as we’re a small team and are trusted to manage and adapt our schedules to meet the needs of our projects.

SIA: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?

JC: The problems that we work with, not only in impact investing but at MaRS generally, can be very messy and difficult problems to deal with – as a result, we don’t always have a lot of prior work to draw upon, or a clear path to reaching a solution. Though this can be challenging,  I’ve found that the messiest problems to deal with are also typically the most educational and interesting to work with. Within outcome-based finance, the challenge is similar: every Social Impact Bond that we create is tailored to a very specific target population and problem, and so needs to be built from the ground up with only small amounts of precedent to draw upon.

SIA: Are there any misconceptions about your profession or space you’re in?

JC: Two misconceptions that come to mind are i) impact investing provides below-market returns and ii) impact investing isn’t suitable for/accessible by institutional investors. Both of these are often untrue, and while some impact investments sacrifice financia return for ’social return’, many do not. Typically, impact investing instruments leverage public/philanthropic funding or market-based solutions to social problems in order to mitigate this trade-off for institutional investors. The same is true for risk: some instruments are risky, but many take steps to mitigate their risk, and many others are insulated from consumer-driven market risk altogether.

SIA: What are some skills required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

JC: Impact investing benefits from a range of different skills – people with backgrounds in finance, social issue areas, non-profits, government and public policy, and evaluation methods (and many more) all have something unique to offer. Though people tend to gravitate towards their specialty areas, having a bit of knowledge of each of these is ideal. Being able to review a financial model for a Social Impact Bond, work with the Boards of non-profits on their funding challenges, evaluate the potential of a program offered by a social service provider, and navigate government approval processes are all extremely helpful and needed skills.

SIA: What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone?

JC: Curiosity is always the top characteristic that I value – I love working with people that are always excited to explore and try new concepts and solutions, and are willing to push the envelope on things that haven’t been tried yet.

REFLECTIONS & ADVICE

SIA: Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career?

JC:  We all follow unique and unpredictable paths, so it’s tough to point to one specific thing to do differently. I do wish that I took advantage of my school years to try out projects in the social entrepreneurship space – there’s such a wealth of expertise and resources available for those doing so, and whether successful or not it’s a fantastic learning opportunity and a great experience.

 

In terms of what I wouldn’t change, I think that continuing to learn constantly and broadly when you’re out of school is extremely important – it keeps you open to new opportunities, and prevents you from thinking of yourself as a single-field specialist. In many fields, including impact investing, being able to bridge fields is incredibly useful.

SIA: Could you share with us the best life or career advice you’ve received?

JC: In my opinion, it’s extremely difficult to create an accurate and unchanging plan for your future, however short-term, other than by maintaining it stubbornly or by sheer happenstance. From what I’ve seen so far, being open to new ideas and new things, and being open to changing your plans for the things that become important to you, is far more important than having a detailed, but likely premature, plan.

 

“Every May, speakers all over the country fire up the Stanford Graduation Speech, the theme of which is: don’t give up on your dreams. I know what they mean, but this is a bad way to put it, because it implies you’re supposed to be bound by some plan you made early on. The computer world has a name for this: premature optimization...these speakers would do better to say simply, don’t give up."

Paul Graham (Josh's advice)

Key Takeaways

We loved chatting with Josh about the way he found his way into the impact investing space. A few insights that stuck with us are:

 

  1. Doing work with very little precedent can be challenging and ambiguous at times, but a very valuable learning experience.
  2. Impact investing benefits from a diverse set of skills and experiences, ranging from non-profit experience to government and public policy.
  3. Be open to changing your plans to make space for things that are valuable to you.

We are so grateful for having Josh’s story and experience on our Career Maps. If you want to learn more about the impact investing space and how to transition from a more traditional background, reach out to Josh on LinkedIn.

 

Interested in learning about other folks in the space? Check out our other Career Maps