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Get to Know Calvert Impact Capital Staff: Diego Valdivia

We're conducting a series of interviews with our staff, borrowers, and investors. We hope you'll follow along and get to know Calvert Impact Capital and our partners better. Our second interview in this series is with Calvert Impact Capital staff member, Diego Valdivia.

Name: Diego Valdivia Title: Director, Risk Management Tenure at Calvert Impact Capital: 4 years in February 2020 Places you’ve called home: Middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile; Johannesburg, South Africa; Boston, Massachusetts; Washington, DC Languages: Spanish; Chilean; English; learning German

1. What do you do at Calvert Impact Capital?

I'm part of the Risk Management team. We support the Investments team and review all the deals that the Investment Officers bring to our credit committee for approval. Everything we invest in must go through the Risk Management team to ensure that each investment we bring to the table falls within our risk tolerance and risk appetite. That's the main function of my team.

There's no typical day for me and I think that's true for most people that work here; no two days are alike. One day I’ll review due diligence for a new loan structure that seeks to prevent forest fires in California and then the next day I'll develop a regression-based model for risk assessment. Every single day there's something different.

The Risk Management team always gets involved in interesting projects. I recently got involved with a deep dive analysis that asked whether having more women in senior leadership positions has a positive impact on companies’ financial returns. I read an article on a similar study of publicly listed companies and they had very interesting findings. Because we have a ton of accessible data, I was able to investigate our portfolio at Calvert Impact Capital and confirm that it is also true for our portfolio, which is in private markets, which is very cool. I'm also involved with portfolio analysis and data management. I'm overseeing a data management project that will improve the quality and accessibility of our data for the entire organization.

2. What excites you most about your work at Calvert Impact Capital?

I really appreciate the freedom I have here at Calvert Impact Capital; If I see a need, there’s always the room to try to meet it. Everybody here is very smart and has so much knowledge, so it's easy to come up with cohesive ideas to propose, bring forward, and explore.

No matter which team you’re on at Calvert Impact Capital, you’ll have a real impact on the organization, which is not typical in the workplace. I know many people at other organizations who complain that they don’t see the impact of their daily work on the organization. It’s completely different here. Everybody has the potential to have an impact on our organization as a whole and therefore on the sectors that we're trying to help.

3. How did you get to Calvert Impact Capital, and more specifically, into impact investing?

I got involved in the impact investing sector over 12 years ago, back in 2007, after I finished my master’s degrees in Chile. The first internship I had was at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. I worked in the Department of Statistics completing statistical analyses related to local court cases. We supported a group of lawyers that litigated criminal and constitutional cases in South Africa. I ended up living there for a little over half a year, which really changed my perspective on how things work in the world. I spent almost my entire life in Chile until I moved to the United States in 2007. But back then, impact investing wasn’t very common in Chile, especially for people with my career path.

The university where I got my business degree is very conservative; they taught us all about the free markets and the “invisible hand.” When I saw inequality and poverty in Chile and in countries around Chile, I was taught that it was always because “the market is not efficient enough” or “the market is not being given the room to do what the market was supposed to do” or “this is a result of bad government intervention.”

Then I traveled to South Africa, which had a very open market as a result of a market-friendly government. Although it was a giant financial hub in Africa, I still saw very deeply ingrained inequality. You have the city of Johannesburg—a lovely, beautiful city—and you see the poorest neighborhoods right next to the wealthiest neighborhoods. You see giant houses on one side, and across the street there’s a slum. I couldn't find the typical explanation I was taught—that it had to do with the government interfering with the market. Although the South African government was “market-friendly”, I still saw deep inequality. Through the work that I completed throughout my internship, I realized that maybe something else was going on.

This experience really changed the way I approached my future career path. A friend of mine connected me with the Boston-based impact investing organization, Root Capital. I interned there and eventually I was hired full-time and began my career in the impact investing sector. This deeply rewarding job shifted my priorities in life.

It was difficult to explain this job to my dad. He worked at a mining company and had many life views much different from my own. Now, my dad is one of my biggest supporters. He loves where I work, reads every article we put out, and tells all his friends about it. It’s interesting to see how things are changing now in Chile, too. Their impact investing industry is growing rapidly, and everybody is making a point that it needs to be part of the capital market.

4. If you could have a dinner party with any three guests, dead or alive, who would you invite?

My favorite writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because the guy rocks—he’s awesome. Stan Lee; I’m a huge comic book geek. I devour them on a daily basis. Then Leymah Gbowee. She was the Nobel Peace Prize winning leader of the Liberian movement that ousted the former president. Although she started with nothing, she saw the pressing need to tackle inequality and poverty and create a better future for the children of Liberia. She initiated a peaceful movement that combined women, and eventually men, of all backgrounds and all religions towards the same objective. She was featured in a documentary called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, which is one of my favorites. I would like to have dinner with her to learn how she figured it all out. She came from absolutely nothing, saw something that needed to happen, and made it happen.

5. Do you have any reading or listening recommendations? (Books, podcasts, articles, etc.)

Our gender report, “Just Good Investing: Why gender matters to your portfolio and what you can do about it,” especially the analysis section; it’s really good!

6. If you had to describe Calvert Impact Capital in one word or term, what would it be?