Second-year University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service student Wesley Prewett is currently living in Washington, D.C. and working with Enclude, a capital advisory firm dedicated to building a more inclusive and sustainable financial system by offering solutions that prioritize economic growth and investor returns with social transformation.
“The impact investing world is built around the idea that you can make money investing in companies whose main focus is not just making money but also having a social impact,” Prewett said. “We are trying to ensure there is an ecosystem for people who want to use their money to do good rather than just seek returns.”
Prewett is assisting Enclude’s clients with the development of social impact funds, built around mission-driven projects or companies. For the Russellville, Ark. native, Enclude is the latest in a series of stops with socially-responsible businesses and organizations.
Previous to Enclude, Prewett worked with Southern Bancorp in Little Rock, an organization that “balances profit with purpose.” He conducted a feasibility study to examine if Southern Bancorp Community Partners, the nonprofit loan fund attached to Southern Bancorp, could utilize a number of government loan-guarantee programs to build their small-business lending capacity.
For his International Public Service Project in the summer of 2018 he worked with Zoona, a mobile technology company developing financial products for underserved consumers in Zambia and Malawi. As an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, he conducted economic impact research on a Mozambique chicken farm through the Global Community Development program.
The common thread across each organization is the effort to inject moral responsibility into the financial industry.
“Both organizations (Enclude and Southern Bancorp) understand that the most realistic way we shape the world around us is by the way we spend our money,” Prewett said. “Southern Bancorp and Enclude both are they trying to shape their respective industries and prove that, through their business models, it’s possible to distribute capital in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and just.”
How were you originally connected with Enclude?
I met a couple of Enclude people last July or August when I was working at Southern Bancorp, so I knew Enclude, knew what they did, and was excited to learn about the company and how they operated. I continued to follow Enclude’s work and the impact investing industry and then Laurie Spengler, the CEO of Enclude, spoke at the Clinton School in May. I watched the live stream of the speech from South Africa and I was really impressed. I reached out to Dean Rutherford and told him I was potentially interested in working for Enclude. He sent her an email and connected me.
What has made this a priority for you?
I was a finance major at UA and had kind of decided it wasn’t really for me. I wanted to use my degree to help people. I eventually found that one way to do that was through development finance. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on mobile money in Africa and I thought it was really interesting work. I didn’t realize that the financial sector had such high potential to change people’s lives. I looked for ways to use my education to help people and started looking for companies and organizations that were changing people’s lives with socially-responsible financial services.
How do you see you work playing out long-term?
I want to continue to work in impact investing or development banking. Everyone is saying right now that you need to vote to make sure your voice is heard. While I think voting is important, I think the most important way to make sure your voice is heard is to direct your money to causes you care about who you bank with, what you invest in, what you buy at the store. You vote more with your wallet than you ever will with your ballot. I want to stay engaged with that ecosystem and make impact investing accessible so people can use their money to do good.