• Daniela Barone Soares has been named as one of the 20 people changing Brazil and the world – find out why here
  • When building partnerships across sectors, it is vital to 'bridge the communication divide' says Daniela Soares of Granito and Capital
  • For Daniela Soares, leadership starts with self-awareness – understanding how you come across, understanding your strengths and flaws

Elon Musk, Melinda Gates, Justin Trudeau – now that’s some heady company that Daniela Barone Soares has been keeping of late. No, wait a minute, let’s rephrase that.

Daniela Barone Soares – now that’s some heady company that Elon Musk, Melinda Gates and Justin Trudeau have been keeping of late. That’s better.

All four were among those named by Brazilian business magazine, ISTOÉ Dinheiro, as 20 people who are changing Brazil and the world. Soares was included for her role as CEO of Granito & Capital, a boutique investment bank that balances the pursuit of profits with the need to make a positive social difference in the world.

It’s a simple idea and one that has already had quite the impact. Asked to reveal the secret of her success, Soares says that while there is no single golden rule to follow, there is a series of sequential steps which can be taken.

“It really depends on what the idea is and the desired impact,” she says. “You need to identify the purpose and impact that you seek to achieve and whether the project achieves them. Then you need to look to the evidence and make sure it is objective, demonstrable and as scientific as possible. And then you need to look at whether the impact is measurable and, if yes, whether it can be scaled and replicated.”

Growing Granito

Although Granito & Capital is itself only a few months old – it launched last year – Soares has accumulated a vast amount of experience in both the banking and social impact spheres. Stints at BancBoston Capital, Citibank and Goldman Sachs preceded 10 years as CEO of Impetus-PEF, the UK’s leading venture philanthropy organisation. During that period, annual income grew tenfold, delivering £70m in value to 55 partner charities, which helped over a million disadvantaged people.

Now, though, she is putting this experience to use by steering Granito & Capital into ever more prosperous waters. While based in London, its focus is global, and her passion comes through loud and clear. “We need to be bolder and make change happen faster,” she says. “We can choose to operate differently, and better – for our own sake, for future generations, and for the future of our planet. Evidence is abundant that this is not only compatible with superior and sustainable profits, but that this approach supports it.”

Soares and her team are not the first to combine social impact with the generation of financial returns. In the 1950s and 1960s, large asset owners (pension funds, insurance companies, endowments) started to recognise the opportunity to affect the wider social environment by using their capital assets. This kickstarted what is now called “Socially Responsible Investing” (SRI) or “Environmental, Social and Fair Governance” (ESG) investing. Although the practice has gained ground, out of a total of US$77 trillion assets under management in the global economy today, only US$23 trillion incorporate an element of ESG or SRI. So, there is much more to do.

“First, we want to move the remaining volume of financial assets – US$54 trillion – to socially responsible practices,” adds Soares. “Then, we want to continue this journey into an economy where every producer of goods and services should at least concern themselves with minimising their negative footprint and augmenting their positive social and environmental impact. At Granito & Capital we are well positioned to finance the impact economy – right now we have £2 billion of signed mandates to raise capital for projects that generate market returns and social and environmental impact.”

Partnerships aplenty

A thread running through Soares’ career has been her ability to construct strong working partnerships with governments, not-for-profits and businesses – even Granito & Capital works shoulder-to-shoulder with its sister companies, Granito & Partners (a strategy consultancy for the impact economy) and the Impact Economy Foundation. While saluting the importance of partnerships with third parties, she adds that building and nurturing them takes special care.

“They are a wonderful way to achieve something way bigger than what your organisation would be able to achieve alone,” she says. “But they are not easy, so it is important to spend time – before signing on the dotted line – to secure their success. Each partnership has its own characteristics, which need to be assessed accordingly.”

That said, she does have some important advice to offer. “When building partnerships across sectors, the first thing is to bridge the communication divide,” she begins. “Sectors speak different languages and many partnerships end before they even begin, as a result of miscommunication or not understanding deeply what matters to the various parties.”

Clarity is also vital, she reveals. “It is important to have total clarity as to why it makes sense for all parties involved. This sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at how this is only discussed when things are already under way – which leads to frustration or the end of the partnership. You also have to ensure that your values align. And you should agree and test your modus operandi as a partnership. Some questions to bear in mind are: how much time and resources will each commit? How do you work together? What are the rules of engagement? How would we resolve problems that arise along the way? What are the red lines?”

Much done, much still to do

Despite a rocket-fuelled career arc, Soares shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. On the contrary, her plans for the future are big and bold. “My inspiration for the next chapter is to help transform the global economy into an impact economy,” she says. “This is the first step to readjust asset prices, so that we value and reward those organisations and institutions who are contributing to the wellbeing of people and the planet. This shift alone will go a long way towards increasing social capital, reducing inequality, and improving trust in business.”

She is also keen on harnessing the power of technology to ensure it is a force for good. “The democratisation resulting from cheaper and ubiquitous access to different technologies can lead to better quality education, better access to quality healthcare, cheaper and clean energy, among many other things,” she says.

Leading the way

Achieving these lofty aims will require teamwork and strong leadership skills. Interestingly, Soares is keen to stress that there is a difference between a “PILP” (person in a leadership position) and a leader. “I have worked with true leaders: inspiring, brave, visionary and self-aware,” she explains. “I have also worked with many PILPs, who occupy that position but who lack leadership qualities – and the humility to recognise that. They are dry, uninspiring and do not get the best from the people they lead.”

For Soares, leadership starts with self-awareness – understanding how you come across and are perceived, understanding your strengths and flaws. “No one is perfect, and the more self-awareness you have, the more easily you can place yourself in a position where your shortcomings can be mitigated,” she continues.

“Then it is about vision, courage and tenacity to bring it to fruition. A leader will also be able to inspire and motivate people to join in on the journey. Courage is essential, as tough decisions have to be made along the way. For the same reason, serenity and humility are also required. Also, a true leader knows s/he is never the finished article: s/he is always learning, improving and adapting. So my advice would be to hone your self-awareness and leadership attributes, put them into practice in whatever opportunity you have, with humility – so when your career brings you to a leadership position, you won’t be a PILP.”

Soares – clearly no PILP herself – is now setting her sights on advancing her agenda apace, but if there were one thing she could change about Brazil (her country of birth) and one thing about the world, what would they be?

“I think Brazil will improve a lot with more transparency, strengthening of its institutions, and a serious tackling of corruption,” she concludes. “I think that alone will have a big impact on inequality, which I believe is the biggest problem the country has. And worldwide, poverty has reduced over the past century – but there is still a lot we need to achieve to ensure a better world for this and future generations. So my desire for the world would be to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – or before!”

If António Guterres gets stuck, he knows who to call.



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