Return on Disability (RoD) – Can investors make money off of disability ?
I want to share a story about friends of mine, Jamie and Scott Burton, who own and run an award wining information and communications technologies (ICT) business called Dolphin Digital Technologies. Their business is mainly staffed by people with disabilities.
In the earlier years of their business, they tried to attract clients to their service based on the fact that it provided jobs for disabled persons. The business was not going well, and when the staff members were asked to think about solutions, they identified themselves as the problem. They sensed that potential clients were uncomfortable or unwilling to take a chance on people with disabilities.
Based on their advice, the Burtons stopped trying to target clients who might appreciate that they were hiring people with disabilities, and shifted to marketing the services they provided; nothing more. The business grew and developed even more innovative solutions. Using virtualization, Dolphin designs environments where an individual is not discriminated against, and is delivered the means to be the very best that they can be.
Dolphin is a successful for-profit business that demonstrates the potential of innovation due to diversity and inclusion.
Dolphin is a not a publicly traded company, so you won’t find them on the stock market, but in September 2014, a former trader on Wall Street, Rich Donovan, launched a stock index that identifies publicly traded companies that have acted to attract and serve people with disabilities (and their friends and family) as customers and employees.
Donovan actually launched two indices, one in Canada and one in the U.S.. The indices track the returns that may be available from investing in a basket of up to 100 stocks in the U.S., and 50 stocks in Canada that are selected according to their disability ranking.
These ranking evaluate the companies’ publicly observable activities relating to people with disabilities across three key areas: talent, customer and productivity. These are actions that have been shown to either grow revenue or cut costs for the company.
Because the index was just recently created, there is no historical performance data, but Rich Donovan believes that these companies will outperform. Bloomberg broadcasts the best RoD performers daily on their terminals worldwide. And Barclays has created an investment product using the company rankings. These significant financial players likely would not have gotten involved if they didn’t see the potential to make money.
Have you ever confronted your prejudices and feelings about disability?
If I tell you that the man who launched the stock index on disability has cerebral palsy, would that increase or diminish the credibility of the index in your eyes? Does it surprise you that a person with cerebral palsy was a former trader on Wall Street?
While the RoD documentation presents strong data on the potential global disability market and the value of designing for disability, I believe that what it really boils down to is that companies that are able to show profound respect for others, and opportunities for self-actualization of all employees — in other words, companies with enlightened management — are companies that are more likely to continue to do well over time.
Below is the list of companies (and their symbol on the stock market) included in the Canadian RoD Index, as of January 2, 2014:
|BanqueCanadienne Impériale de Commerce||CM|
|BanqueRoyale du Canada||RY|
|Chemin defer Canadien Pacifique Limitée||CP|
|CompagniePétrolière Impériale ltée||IMO|
|Fiducie deplacement immobilier Boardwalk||BEI-U|
|FinancièreSun Life inc.||SLF|
|GenworthMI Canada Inc.||MIC|
|GroupeJean Coutu (PJC) inc.||PJC/A|
|HomeCapital Group Inc.||HCG|
|IndustrielleAlliance assurance et services financiers inc.||IAG|
|Lescompagnies Loblaw ltée||L|
|ManitobaTelecom Services Inc.||MBT|
|New FlyerIndustries Inc.||NFI|
|SociétéCanadian Tire ltée||CTC/A|
|Sociétéde gestion AGF ltée||AGF/B|
|WhistlerBlackcomb Holdings Inc.||WB|