This is the second in a series of collaboration stories featuring JEI fellows and alumni who have worked together to shift the flow of capital and power. This post features Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole of Chordata Capital–an anticapitalist wealth management firm with a commitment to support clients in redistributing rather than continuing to accumulate wealth. In celebration of their 5-year anniversary, Chordata released their first Impact Report, “Investment with a Backbone.”
Some partnerships arrive out of the blue; some build over time. Others, like the one that emerged between Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole, Just Economy Institute fellows and co-founders of Chordata Capital, feel meant-to-be.
Tiffany is an accomplished organizer, financial advisor and change maker. She first met Kate in 2013, when she was a director for Resource Generation, a community of young people with wealth and/or class privilege committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power. She felt an immediate kinship as she learned more about Kate — one of the few members who shared her interest in investing as a form of activism. When she and Kate reconnected years later, through JEI’s inaugural fellowship cohort, “it became so clear, right away, that we were in the right place at the right time, with the right core values and commitment… just a very similar spirit coming from two really different places.”
Both Tiffany and Kate were ready for something new. In 2016, Tiffany had started working at a socially responsible investment firm and was seeking to build community with others who were integrating a deep commitment to racial and economic justice in their work.
Kate found herself in a similar struggle: “At the time, I was organizing with other wealthy people around investing, but it felt limited. I was hungry for relationship across class and across race, and for a different kind of partnership.”
Five years later, Chordata Capital — named after the phylum of vertebrates that resists, evolves and has a backbone — is modeling a new kind of financial activism. Values-driven and anti-capitalist, Chordata invests directly in local communities and focuses on racial and economic justice. With $135 million in assets under management, Tiffany and Kate’s vision of a redistributive approach to finance is translating to more agency and power for frontline communities.
The JEI fellowship offered Kate and Tiffany the time and space to explore how to create an investment structure they hadn’t yet seen in the world and knew was needed. “One of the challenges presented to JEI fellows was to develop a plan for distributing $100 million in service of a just economy,” Kate shared. “I didn’t want to be a white wealthy person deciding how to ‘fix’ racism or inequality. I didn’t think that was a good exercise to go about solving as an individual. At the same time, being surrounded by so many amazing fellows and faculty committed to racial justice within finance made me excited to help make that possible.”
Since her early 20s, Tiffany has worked in donor and investor organizing, developing a clear vision and sharp analysis of what’s needed to build a just economy. She shared, “I was in activist spaces clearly understanding the problems and in donor spaces with people ready to choose a different path.” Tiffany knew that “without values-aligned advisors, these wealthy folks weren’t finding finance people who could support their vision for a radical approach to investing.”
For their JEI creative capital project, Tiffany and Kate decided to co-create an investment advisory firm that would help radical inheritors walk the talk. Tiffany was able to build on decades of organizing experience and the skills she developed working in socially responsible investing, and Poole was able to leverage her inherited resources and local investing experience. Chordata was born.
Advisors told Kate and Tiffany that it wasn’t possible to avoid investing in corporations or to build portfolios full of community investments that center racial justice. They said you can’t design investment portfolios to redistribute wealth — that financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to maximize wealth accumulation.
“That’s not true,” Tiffany shared. “You have a responsibility to support clients in meeting their values and their goals. If their goals are to redistribute wealth and to invest in the solidarity economy, you can and should do that, working alongside them. You just have to build the infrastructure, skills and relationships to make it happen.”
When Chordata launched, values-driven investors were interested. “There were people who really wanted to take their investments out of Wall Street and put them into community-controlled investments, but there weren’t advisors to help them,” Tiffany noted.
Investment advising for individuals isn’t the only thing TIffany and Kate offer. Now in its fifth year, Chordata Capital also offered a cohort experience for investors to explore reparative finance. Communities of practice like JEI’s fellowship and the Chordata Cohort give people space for inquiry and a place to build fluency and confidence. “Finance is such a confidence game,” TIffany noted. “A lot of people act like they know what they’re talking about, but there are so many contradictions in this work. The whole sector is an unsafe learning space.”
“I was really hungry for a learning community when I arrived at JEI,” Tiffany explained. “In some ways I expected to be taught the mechanics of better finance or economic models — a disappointing orientation because I don’t think there are many models that exist. There are a lot of people doing beautiful work, but there are also so many hypocrisies within our economic framework that we aren’t encouraged to explore. The Chordata Cohort focused on deep questioning, as well as collective action and power.”
“About twelve years ago, I wanted to redistribute my wealth,” Kate shared. “I asked advisors how to shift my portfolio into Black communities, but there weren’t any easy answers. [JEI fellow] Jessica Norwood, who founded RUNWAY, was one of the first people I met who was using investing to build Black wealth. Fast forward to today, we’ve gone from not really having a visible way for white investors to redistribute wealth and power, to having many options flourishing in different spaces. I’m so grateful to be in this work with Tiffany. She took a really big risk partnering with me and building this wild firm. It feels so powerful to do this together.”
“For white people in particular, especially wealthy white people, it’s so important to get out of that individualistic, problem-solving mentality,” Kate said. “I invite folks to find others across class and race — especially if you’re committed to economic or racial justice — to build partnerships and trust.”
While it’s easy to see the insight and courage of these extraordinary first-movers, they shine the light back on their clients and partners. Tiffany shared, “When clients join us, they’re going against the grain, and I can see how courageous they are for doing something different. It’s beautiful to acknowledge and share that with them. We’re building community and a different narrative of what’s possible in finance — collectively, we are all brave. And, we’re just doing what fundamentally needs to happen to have a just economy.”