Keeping it simple – Sam Stubbs

October 27, 2017

For Simplicity founder Sam Stubbs making philanthropy part of his business was simply “the right thing to do.”

In August last year, Sam, former CEO of Tower Investment, launched Simplicity, a not-for-profit fund manager that is hard-wired towards doing good. It offers ethical investment, the lowest fees and has a built-in model whereby 15% of management fees are donated to charity.

Simplicity employs seven paid staff, alongside 42 volunteers, who are all professionals at the top of their game. Its board includes Google New Zealand executive Reuben Halper and Shamubeel Eaqub, one of New Zealand’s most outspoken, independent economists.

In less than a year, Simplicity has attracted more than 6,500 members whose collective fee savings are over $1.5 million annually.

Sam admits that Simplicity have some really big, audacious goals and one of them is to be among the biggest donors in New Zealand. So far, it’s earmarked $73,000 for charities and that’s with a fractional market share in KiwiSaver. With 10% market share by 2030, Simplicity would be giving away $10 million a year.

“We’re really confident that we have the formula to achieve that, but we have to get off the ground as a growing business first, so there’s a very strong philanthropic motive, but there’s also a very strong commercial one as well.”

“Philanthropy works for us on many levels,” Sam admits, “you know it’s commercially sensible, it aligns with our values, it also creates an army of volunteers that assist us in growing, and they get to feel really good about their contribution as well.

It’s a win-win for members Sam says, “Members get wealthier, as fees are lower, while supporting charity. They’re also helping keep dollars in New Zealand.”

Sam believes his goals are realistic. “We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars (in KiwiSaver)”, he explains, “so if you could take even the tiniest slice of a massive pool of money, you could still make a huge difference, a really meaningful difference.”

Sam says good fortune enabled him to be in a position to give back, “I’ve had a really lucky career and a very lucky life, yet reached the point where I thought I’m actually not getting the satisfaction that I want in life out of making more money and being more successful, so I decided to give back.

“I stopped working for a living, I went to work for charities doing grassroots stuff like collections and handing out pamphlets.”

Wanting to engage his skills and experience, he pulled out the proverbial blank sheet with three other people, (two of whom were KiwiSaver fund managers), and asked, “How do we make the biggest difference?”

Simplicity is the result. Sam says the focus of Simplicity’s donations will be education related, “Because we ultimately think education helps break the poverty cycle,” and that over the next three to six months they are developing policy on how the funds will be distributed.

Another benchmark Simplicity is putting into practice is gender diversity. The organisation has a majority of female directors and trustees, and 40 percent of senior management are women. These are rare figures, evenfor not-for-profit organisations. Sam was inspired to create change when learning his daughter stood only a 4 percent chance of ever becoming a chief executive in New Zealand. He hopes the odds will be considerably improved by asking the companies that Simplicity invests in to create diversity at the upper levels and better opportunities.

Article originally published in Issue #71 Philanthropy News, August 2017