Q&A with Alison Pyott ’92
Partner | Chief Client Service Office | Senior Impact Wealth Manager at Veris Wealth Partners
Alison Pyott headshot
Tell us a little bit about your career path. Where has life taken you?

In 1992, I graduated from UNH with a degree in Hotel Administration. After a brief time in the hospitality industry I transitioned my client service skills to the John Hancock mutual fund call center in Portsmouth. The mid-90’s was a boom for mutual funds. It was a great time to enter the financial industry and a tremendous opportunity to advance my career from customer service associate to management.

When the Portsmouth office closed, I left the company. That unexpected change brought me to United Way of the Greater Seacoast (UWGS) where I managed non-profit relationships and community impact grantmaking. My time at UWGS opened my heart and mind. I knew from that point forward that anything I pursued in life needed to be mission-driven. I wanted to return to finance and decided to pursue a career in socially-responsible investing where I could leverage finance as a force for good. In 2007, Veris Wealth Partners, a leading national impact wealth management advisory firm, was created. I was invited to join and manage the Portsmouth, NH office. I have been a partner since 2015 and today am a Senior Wealth Manager and the Chief Client Service Officer.

“At Veris, we believe capital markets can be harnessed to create change.”
What is Veris?

Veris is an independent, owner-managed, SEC-registered impact wealth advisory firm. We serve high net worth individuals, families and family foundations. Our clients care equally about financial performance and using their wealth to create positive change in the world. People often think philanthropy and government will solve the world’s most pressing issues. At Veris, we believe capital markets can be harnessed to create change. We are a women-led firm, which is very unusual in finance. As impact wealth managers we listen to our client’s needs, values and goals then construct financial plans and impact investment portfolios. Within client portfolios, we reduce exposure to investments that contribute to global challenges and invest in innovative solutions. Our clients are inspiring. It is an honor to help them navigate wealth and make a difference in the world.

You currently lead the “Women, Wealth and Impact” strategy for Veris. What does that mean and why is it important to you?

As the lead of Veris’ Women, Wealth and Impact Strategy I guide our thought-leadership and research on Gender Lens Investing (GLI). We have been involved in building the field of GLI since the term was coined in 2009. GLI incorporates gender considerations into financial analysis to achieve better outcomes for women, families, companies and communities. GLI investments seek to invest in companies with diverse boards & management teams as well as practices to close gender gaps in advancement and pay. GLI portfolios may also seek to invest in products & services for women or increase access to capital for women entrepreneurs. Over the last few years GLI has broadened to incorporate racial and other forms of equity. The GLI field has exploded over the past few years. Veris has played an important role in this growth through our client portfolio work and research papers, including our 2018 report Bending the Arc of Finance for Women and Girls.

When I was at UNH and in my 20s I was not really aware of gender bias or harassment. Although, I probably experienced them. Through my non-profit and professional work, I have learned a tremendous amount about inequity. Numerous studies outline gender and racial disparity as well as the benefits of investing in women. Change is happening. However, it is very slow. Closing gender gaps would add $12 trillion to global GDP according to McKinsey’s Power of Parity report. Investing in women’s economic success is not only better for women, it makes companies and economies stronger.

What could we all do to better align our money with our values?

The first step is to set an intention. Know what you want to change with your money – your consumer decisions, your charitable giving and your investments. It does not have to be one thing. Consumers, philanthropists and investors often integrate multiple values or impact goals with their dollars. With each of your decisions, consider how your money is being used once it is out in the world. Just like your vote in an election, every dollar you spend, give or invest is not only serving you, but also creating the world we live in.

If you have investments, review the companies in your portfolio. Are there companies exacerbating the problems? If yes, consider divesting. Fossil fuel free portfolios are increasingly reducing volatility, and risk, as well as outperforming their fossil invested peers. You can also invest in solutions such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, diverse entrepreneurs, and affordable housing–to name a few. If you have an employer sponsored retirement plan talk to your provider: do they offer sustainable investment options?

Consider talking to your alma mater about the investment impact of their endowment portfolio. It has been wonderful to witness the UNH foundation make major advancements. I was honored to support the UNH Foundation changes informally and then as an Advisor to the Committee for Investor Responsibility. So much progress has been made to increase the Foundations portfolio alignment with the University’s mission and programs and improve offerings for donors.

However you decide to take action, it’s important to keep asking questions. If your investment advisor isn’t responding to your questions and intentions, look for an advisor who can help you find solutions. There is no shortage of research proving sustainable and impact investment does not create a financial return trade-off. In fact, more likely it can help you reduce risk and amplify returns.

“Just like your vote in an election, every dollar you spend, give or invest is not only serving you, but also creating the world we live in.”
Can you tell me a little bit about the non-profits you have worked with and why you’re attracted to their missions?

Currently, I’m an advisor to Invest for Better, a national non-profit campaign on a mission to demystify impact investing for women. I’m also an advisor to the Northern New England Women Investor Network (NNEWIN). This is a tri-state collaboration working to grow the number of women angel investors in Northern New England through networking and education opportunities. Participating in the Southeast Land Trust’s Annual Wild & Scenic Film Selection Committee, Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle and New England International Donors (NEID) are also meaningful involvements for me. Formerly, I was the Treasurer for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, Chair of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Piscataqua Region Advisory Board and an Advisor to the UNH Foundation Committee on Investor Responsibility.

My husband ’90G and I believe it is a personal responsibility to do our part to make the world a better place. We even included this in our wedding vows! We feel it is important to leverage all of our resources to make a difference – energy, time, voice, philanthropy and investments. The value of community service was another gift I received during my time at United Way. I witnessed firsthand how volunteering makes a difference.

Was there a point in your time at UNH–a class, an experience, a person–that helped push you in this direction with your career?

My degree in Hotel Administration is the foundation and major theme of my career. It is a business degree specializing in service. In every position I have held I have been serving internal or external clients. Usually both! It was also a really fun and interesting way to get a business degree – gourmet dinners, beverage class!

The support I received from professors and peers was integral to my UNH experience. Whittemore School, now Paul College, has a close-knit community and an even closer cohort within my hospitality major. Working in the hospitability industry while going to school also made my education very tangible. I loved business strategy and feel fortunate as a business owner that those lessons continue into my current work.

My post-graduate involvement and connections to UNH have been very meaningful. Working with the Center for Social Innovation, the Sustainability Institute, the UNH Foundation as well as UNH Sustainability Institute director Fiona Wilson and Dean Merrill-Sands have made my post-graduate connections just as important as my days on campus. It is, also, a joy to watch my former UNH interns grow their careers.

What is your advice to incoming and current Paul College students who might want to use the skills they’ll learn here to make a difference in the world?

Regularly evaluate your passions and how you enjoy spending your time. There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai that means “reason for being”. It helps you explore what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for and what the world needs. At their intersection you will find your purpose and your opportunity to serve the world.

—Micky Bedell
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as the provision of personalized investment advice, or an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. Rather, the contents simply reflect the opinions and views of the speaker which are subject to change without notice.