When you think of “investors” or “private equity,” an ivory tower of three-piece suits, board rooms, and bank vaults initially comes to mind... Morgan Simon redefines and revolutionizes the investor image.
This socially conscious crusader for culturally-minded finance—who has personally influenced over $150 billion in funds since 2001—wakes up the general public to the positive possibilities and potential of investing. She distills a practice previously reserved only for Wall Street into a language spoken on every main street in the world. She’s taught finance everywhere from Harvard Business School to HBCUs to Haiti. Moreover, she represents the next generation of economic movers and shakers as encapsulated in her 2017 literary debut, Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change—endorsed by none other than Van Jones who claimed, “Morgan is as entertaining in her writing as she is brilliant in her concepts”, Bill McKibben, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and more.
She leverages nearly two decades in finance, a lifelong commitment to social justice, and a free spirit to impact real revolution from inside the system. Speaking to a new generation, Morgan is just as comfortable salsa dancing up a storm, singing, and dance battling as she is challenging the ethics of a Fortune 500 company or divesting money from private prisons, or investing in companies that are building a better future for people and the planet.
“I was trying to figure out how to do social good, and I kept winding up back at the economy,” she affirms. “I felt that’s where change happens, so I needed to be comfortable with money. I eventually learned that social change can happen when investors are educated, the economy is equalized, and resources are properly distributed.”
In many ways, Morgan was born and groomed to incite such change. The Los Angeles native grew up in a “50-50” home, as she likes to call it. Dad Scott Simon performed and toured in iconic rock band Sha Na Na—famous for its TV show of the name as well as Grease and Woodstock performances. Meanwhile, mother Sarina Simon taught elementary school before moving on to a successful career in education investment alongside Mike Milken.
“I learned so much from both of them,” she explains. “My mother taught me the basics of professional communication and executive leadership. On the other side, my dad is a rock star. There’s an element of performance and capturing attention that applies to all sectors. We all want to be entertained even when listening to a discussion about money or social issues.”
In high school, she split her time between a rigorous commitment to dance and countless hours of community activism. Attending Swarthmore College, she recognized the social implications of investing for the first time. As the university housed a billion-dollar endowment, she made headlines in the Wall Street Journal by inspiring Swarthmore to take a shareholder resolution to Lockheed Martin and ultimately revise the company’s LGBTQ policies. The budding economic visionary effectively used the college’s endowment as a form of activism and identified a new lane for creating social change.
Maintaining this momentum in academia, 2001 saw her launch the Responsible Endowments Coalition as a junior in college. It informed universities of where their money was being utilized and how it could be invested to cause a positive ripple throughout society, and eventually spread to 100 college campuses across the country with over $100B.
“I’ve always wanted to help individual understand their economic power,” she goes on. “As an individual, you might feel powerless, but you’re actually connected to billions by virtue of your school, where you bank, your pension fund, etc. It’s about encouraging other goals for how we use our money in society. If we can’t create an economy that works for people, we’re doing something wrong.”
Despite being known for her investment work, she has worked in organizing, politics and development aid as well. She impacted New Mexico’s evolution into a blue state by increasing Native American and Hispanic voter registration by 5,000 as part of a Bill Richardson-led Political Action Committee in 2004. She also worked with the United Nations in Honduras on HIV prevention programs, and under the auspices of the Special Court in Sierra Leone.
Among other professional milestones, she founded and served as C.E.O. of Toniic, which united 200 investors and $4.5 billion devoted to social and environmental enterprises. Toniic arguably led the trend for global social angel investing. She is also a co-founder and chair of Transform Finance, the non-profit lives up to its name by “building a bridge between finance and social justice by using the tools of finance.”
Notably, less than 1.1% of assets globally are managed by firms owned by a woman or person of color. Once again smashing stereotypes, Morgan co-founded and co-leads Candide Group, an Oakland-based Registered Investment Advisor. Its clients include members of the Pritzker family.
Culled from a Voltaire novel, the name Candide sums up her ethos.
“As the last line of Candide states, We all need to plant our gardens,” she continues. “It’s an allusion towards action. We’re taking action in the world of finance.”
Right now, she remains on the boards of the Restaurant Opportunity Center, Transform Finance and CARE Enterprises, and serves as an adjunct professor at Middlebury College's graduate school program. She calls the Bay Area home.