Vivek Ramaswamy’s investment firm recalibrates its anti-woke meter


The investment firm founded by anti-woke crusader Vivek Ramaswamy is dialing down the very anti-woke rhetoric that made it prominent, hoping to court a wider audience, the firm acknowledged to investors in a letter last month.

The firm, Strive Asset Management, is seen “as political over investment oriented,” turning off some investors and limiting its opportunities to grow, according to the letter, viewed by Semafor.

Now, even as Ramaswamy is riding his culture-war views to a surprising third on the presidential campaign trail, Strive is recalibrating its own outrage meter.

Its new chief executive, Matt Cole, spent 16 years running bond portfolios for CalPERS, the giant California pension fund. A deeply religious Christian but not outwardly political, Cole, who took the job in May, said ESG has outlived its usefulness in investing.

“Don’t get me wrong. We believe that shareholders are more important than other stakeholders,” he said in an interview. “And we do think the corporate ESG movement has been value-destructive and politically motivated. It started with ‘don’t hire slave labor in China’ and now it’s become something else.” But “that’s an investing [disagreement], not a culture war,” he said.

Cole pointed to Strive’s largest fund, which invests in U.S. energy companies and urges them to keep drilling for oil so long as it’s profitable. He cited estimates from JPMorgan analysts of a $600 billion shortfall in oil and gas investment by 2030, which could lead to a spike in prices and crimp the global post-pandemic recovery.

“In 20 years, I highly doubt that Strive’s position would be oil companies should be drilling more,” he said, “but that’s true today.”

Strive runs eight exchange-traded funds, none of which would be out of place in a typical investment portfolio. Recent launches include a small-cap stock fund and a growth fund heavy on big tech names.

It has $845 million in assets — hardly a threat to the giants, like BlackRock and State Street, that Ramaswamy set out to unseat, but significant for a new manager with no track record. (JPMorgan, which got into the ETF business in 2014, took two years to raise its first $1 billion.)

Strive eventually plans to raise a private, activist fund to run proxy fights and seek corporate influence, but that’s on the back burner, people familiar with the matter said. First up is something more mundane: bond funds.

Read the full article here.