Harry Hartford - Levelling the Playing Field

Originally from north county Dublin, Harry Hartford now lives in Los Angeles where he is the President and Head of Fundamental Research at Causeway Capital, an investment management firm which he co-founded in June 2001. In this piece, he talks about what has inspired his support for DCU’s Access Scholarship Programme and shares his thoughts on philanthropic giving and the importance of higher education.

What inspired you to support DCU’s Access Scholarship Programme?

I have always had a thing about education. Access to education can help to level the playing field for some people and, providing a pathway to a third level qualification means successful graduates have a chance to earn higher incomes and have a better quality of life.

Personally, I received a great education in my own alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, which has allowed me to pursue a financially rewarding career in the USA.  While I have been fortunate to also send my own children to excellent universities here, I am conscious that there are many young people who may not have the opportunity to attend third level education without additional support.

As a young university, I like that DCU is committed to making third level education accessible to more people, and supporting initiatives like DCU’s Access Programme is my own modest way of giving back to society.

You recently received the Ireland Fund’s Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of your leadership and philanthropic contributions to organisations making a difference in fields ranging from education and the arts to social entrepreneurship. What drives your strong desire to give back?

For me, it is all about whether the cause resonates. I am particularly passionate about giving to projects where my donation is an investment that helps to find a solution to a societal problem. I don’t believe that if you throw enough money at something, the problem will be solved. I am interested in supporting smart solutions to problems.

Whilst it isn’t what inspires me to give, I think that providing a supportive fiscal framework for philanthropy certainly helps to encourage charitable giving, such as in the USA where philanthropic donations are deductible for tax purposes.

You recently gave a lecture on investment to over 100 students in DCU Business School. Do you enjoy maintaining a connection with higher education? And if so, why?

The connection between investment research and higher education has always been very close. Firstly, we need graduates; without a third level education it’s difficult to understand complex investment instruments and work in our industry. Secondly, I like to think that on a daily basis investment managers are taking economic theory and research from academia and applying it in our work, in a way marrying the ivory tower and practicality.

I have worked in the invest management industry for 38 years and I am passionate about promoting our industry as a career path for young people. It is an industry where no two days are ever the same and I am always happy to speak to students on the topic.

I am also passionate about promoting economic literacy amongst students at all levels from secondary school right through third level. Even if the students I speak with never end up working in my industry, I think it is really important that our young people have a good basic understanding of how financial markets work that will enable them to make informed financial decisions for their future. Too often, financial decision-making is driven by emotions.

How do you believe the Covid-19 pandemic will influence philanthropy in the future?

Whilst the pandemic might have changed how some larger foundations think about what is important when it comes to giving, or indeed might have impacted on the ability of some to make philanthropic donations, I still believe that people will continue to give to causes that are close to their heart and that resonate with them personally.