New York, NY — February 12, 2009
The ING Foundation and Girls Inc., the nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and boldSM, today announced the launch of the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge — an innovative program that will give participating girls practical, hands-on investing experience while allowing them to keep their gains in the form of college scholarships.
With the help and guidance of trained Girls Inc. staff and ING employee volunteers, teams of girls ages 12-18 will build and manage diversified, real-time portfolios as part of an integrative investment- and economic-literacy curriculum. The program will begin with a one-year pilot in New York City, Denver, and Los Angeles and Alameda counties in California.
“Smart money management — learning how to spend, save and grow your money effectively — is a critical life skill,” said Joyce M. Roché, president and CEO of Girls Inc. “But in many households, parents are not equipped to teach girls about money management.”
“The Girls Inc. Economic Literacy® program has been our most popular offering,” Roché said. “It’s clear that girls have a keen appetite to learn more about saving and investing. This innovative Girls Inc./ING partnership will make money management real and meaningful and will be a powerful and important adjunct to the Girls Inc. focus on economic literacy and empowerment.”
Commenting on the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge, Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and senior vice president of ING’s Office of Corporate Responsibility and Multicultural Affairs, said: “The earlier we can engage girls in the capital markets, the more likely we will be able to grow a generation of smart, empowered investors. But it’s hard to make investing meaningful when you have nothing to invest in the first place. For many young people, the stock market might just as well be in another galaxy. That’s why we think the investment challenge is so powerful; girls are not just observers of the stock market but participants, who will, presumably, reap the economic rewards of their efforts.”
How It Will Work
Teams of 13 to 16 girls in the four cities have completed eight weekly financial-literacy lessons designed to focus them on the basics of saving, investing and financial planning and to familiarize them with the investment challenge guidelines.
On March 1, the girls will begin investing with $20,000 virtual portfolios, which will be supplemented monthly over the course of the year until each team has received a total of $50,000.
The challenge is governed by a set of guidelines relating to core investing principles such as asset allocation, diversification, portfolio turnover and valuation, which are intended to encourage sound, long-term investing behaviors. To give the girls gradual exposure to the markets and to help teach and reinforce these fundamental principles, the girls will invest in mutual funds for the first six months of the challenge. After that time, they will be allowed to invest in individual securities.
One of the important features of the challenge is that over the course of the year, each girl will be responsible for identifying, researching and presenting at least one investing idea to the team.
“The ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge will provide the girls with critical, early exposure to the markets and to the fundamentals of investing, but it has also been designed to give them practical, relevant experience with original research, critical thinking and oral argument. These are invaluable skills in the classroom and workplace alike,” Roché said.
“We could not have started the program at a better time,” adds Roché. “Recent market volatility will underscore for our girls the importance of selecting quality investments and of focusing on the long-term.”
Role of the ING Employee Volunteers
Another distinguishing characteristic of the program is the regular involvement of ING employee volunteers, who play an integral role as teachers, mentors, and role models.
ING employees assist trained Girls Inc. professionals in delivering the curriculum, guiding the girls in making investment decisions and ensuring that each team abides by the investing guidelines. Importantly, while the Girls Inc. staff and ING employees will be there to advise the teams, the girls will make all investing decisions.
“A core focus of the ING Foundation is the financial empowerment of underserved populations — a focus we’ve adopted because we feel the need is urgent, and we have the expertise and resources to help.” Mims said. “But merely writing checks is not going to produce the type of sustained, long-term community empowerment to which we aspire. Our employees — with time and expertise — will play a critical role in educating, encouraging and empowering these young women.”
All portfolios will be managed and tracked using a state-of-the-art online-trading platform that will allow the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge participants to track their performance, absolutely and relative to the other challenge teams.
After three years, 75% of any gains in the portfolio will be paid by the ING Foundation to the girls in the form of Girls Inc. scholarships for post-secondary education; 25% of the gains will be given to the local Girls Inc. affiliate to support local programming. The original $50,000 principal will then be re-assigned to the incoming team.
In addition to portfolio performance, a confidential survey of participants will also be used to assess and enhance the impact of the program.
“This is an ambitious and important initiative,” said Mims. “Financial literacy is one of the biggest issues facing American youth today, especially among multicultural girls. We make investing way more complex and intimidating than it needs to be. Innovative advocacy programs like the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge open up the world of investing, financially empowering young women who might not get exposure to investing basics at home or in school.”
“There is tremendous enthusiasm for the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge here at Girls Inc. and among our participating affiliates,” said Marcia Kropf, COO of Girls Inc. “This program gives Girls Inc. girls a running head start while pointing them down a path to post-secondary education. It is a shining example of a public-private partnership between organizations with a common cause, high mutual respect and complementary skill sets.”