Financial Advisory Firm CEO Says CSR Starts at the Top



Bruce Kardon, CEO of Conservest Capital Advisors, believes leadership by example counts. For Kardon, this principle is especially true when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). That’s why he joined other corporate and foundation leaders as a member of the Satell Institute, a leader in the CSR space.

As a leader in his company and his community, Kardon believes in the importance of being an engaged citizen and knows that a culturally rich city is good for his business, his clients and his employees. His company, investment advisory and financial planning firm Conservest, is celebrating its 25th year and has always been service-oriented relying on careful research and smart investments to grow the business to its current size – over $1 billion in assets under management.

When it comes to life – and CSR – Kardon thinks passion should dictate purpose.

“Passion has led me to CSR,” said Kardon on a recent phone call. “I’ve always believed social responsibility was just a natural outgrowth of wanting to help people. As a parent, when your kids see you getting involved, they will get involved and become better citizens. The same life lessons apply to my employees and clients, whom I’ve come to see as family also. You have to set a good example, because leadership starts at the top. But when you’re in a service business like we are, every client has their own passions and you need to realize you can’t do everything or be everywhere. I try to find ways to get involved beyond a checkbook.”​

Do you see similarities between running a for-profit company and the management of nonprofits?

“I really don’t think there should be any difference. If you make good decisions, that’s 90% of success. Sure, there will always be outliers that impact the outcome, but often times it is this straightforward – make good choices and always act in the best interest of your clients. Nonprofits can operate the same way if they focus on who their clients really are, which can sometimes be lost in the race to fundraise. That’s why the multi-year investment strategy that Ed [Satell] came up with is so important – it allows the nonprofit to focus on their clients, the people they’re trying to help.”

Was the multi-year funding part of the draw to join the Satell Institute?

“I joined the Satell Institute for two reasons:

  1. Ed Satell asked me to join. Ed always does things first-class – he is a doer, not a talker. He does it quietly, but really puts his weight behind what he’s passionate about. To be honest, he inspires me. Ed isn’t a ‘checkbook guy’ – he shows tremendous leadership and gets involved.
  2. And yes, the mandatory four-year funding was the second reason. Nonprofits need that multi-year commitment; it allows them to breathe freer. If you have to raise money each year, it’s tough. So, I really liked the structure of the Satell Institute and have found it to be a place that embraces a cross-fertilization of ideas.”

Can you point to some specific examples of causes that have benefitted from this blend of passion and purpose? How have you put CSR into action?

“There are two main areas we want to serve – the city of Philadelphia, and any causes that might be important to my family or members of our company.

In Philadelphia, we’re very involved with the University of the Arts (UArts) and their interdisciplinary way of educating students. UArts is a top-notch institution and a major anchor brand for the Avenue of the Arts. We support them because they represent our city, but also because music and performing arts were always a big part of my life. I love the right side of the brain, the creative side. I think a lot of the kids that have these gifts don’t traditionally test well, and it’s crucial we encourage their development.

We also support other causes that are important to us, like ALS Research, a horrible situation where there is just not enough money or research. And fighting juvenile diabetes, because my friends’ children are suffering from the disease. So, for most of our CSR work, we’ve found tremendous reward in either supporting what hits us from a passion standpoint, or the issues that impact the broader community we live in.”

Do you see this trend of CSR work continuing? Are we having a moment right now?

“I do see this continuing, because there have always been individuals that are heroes – people like Ed Satell and Ron Naples (former CEO of Quaker Chemicals). These are the people who inspire me, and I’ve found that if you’re a good, kind, caring person in business, then you probably also are in your personal life. Just make good decisions and care about people, and it will translate into everything you do.”

Member Growth Continues

The Institute’s membership continues to expand with great companies and private foundations choosing to support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They recognize a collective force can do more for communities than any organization can do on its own.

Welcoming 5 New Members this Week

We welcome the following new members among the several dozen who have recently joined.

Firstrust Bank
Founded in 1934 in South Philadelphia, Firstrust Bank is a third-generation family-owned bank with a strong commitment to community. The same high standards and personal service that has carried the bank through the decades, now allows Firstrust to serve customers throughout the Delaware Valley, Lehigh Valley and Southern New Jersey.

Paris Corporation
Paris Corporation is a leading supplier of paper and business products for retail and commercial customers in North America. Leveraging experienced personnel and a high-level of customer service, Paris Corp. has grown to be one of the largest paper converter and distributors in the country.

Independence Asset Advisors
Independence Asset Advisors (IAA) is a privately-owned asset management firm. IAA has been providing specialized investment management expertise and exceptional client service to institutional and high net worth clients since 2010.

PRWT Services
Celebrating 30 years of success, PRWT is a world-class provider of business process solutions, document processing and facilities management services. The company is focused on building customer relationships by delivering on its promise of cost-effective, efficient services that exceed expectations.

Sabre Systems
With a clear focus on customer success, Sabre Systems provides software and systems engineering solutions for each client’s unique needs. The company is dedicated to creating integrated solutions with excellence and integrity. Their sense of social responsibility is integral to their business and largely focused on STEM education and veteran initiatives.

How Organizations Gain the Benefits of Membership

SI’s members are dedicated to building strong communities and contributing to the greater good through CSR. To receive the benefits of membership, organizations agree it’s of business value to support CSR by contributing a minimum of $25,000 a year for four years (minimum of $100,000 total) to a nonprofit of their choice. Some members proudly choose to contribute to multiple nonprofits (two, three, four or more). The unique four-year commitment requirement allows nonprofits the stable funding needed to support multi-year programs vital to their mission.

The Satell Institute is supported by its own endowment and charges no fees or dues to members or the nonprofits supported.

Subscribe to our Insights!