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The Thinking Ahead Institute (TAI) Award for Most Innovative Paper

  • ,  Investment Content Specialist |
  • 07 Dec 2020

Duncan Austin wins the Thinking Ahead Institute (TAI) Award for the Most Innovative Investment Paper of 2020

The Thinking Ahead Institute Award is a new, exciting inclusion to this year’s annual Savvy Investor Awards. It celebrates the most innovative investment papers published in the last 12 months from the perspective of how they contribute to better outcomes from the investment industry for a wider range of stakeholders. 

Even before the coronavirus, the investment industry faced challenges to its model, as well as its place and role in a rapidly changing and increasingly fragile economic system. Under pressure to find sustainable ways to create value for more stakeholders, great thought leadership and innovation have become their sought-after means to chart a way through turbulent times towards more equitable outcomes.

The papers celebrated in this category tackle these themes. They demonstrate genuine thought leadership and are arresting (in thought and word), accessible, and innovative. 

The winning paper does all this but more than that, it invites action because of its practical nature.

TAI Award for Most Innovative Investment Paper 2020


Milton Friedman’s Hazardous Feedback Loop (Duncan Austin, 2020)

In 1970, Milton Friedman argued that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”. In this short paper, Duncan Austin revisits Friedman’s thesis from a systems perspective, highlighting how he believes it falls short fifty years on. He argues that Friedman’s statement licenses, perhaps unwittingly, companies to obstruct any costly social or environmental policy. By connecting several dots, Austin makes the case for greater ‘stakeholder capitalism’, taking the emphasis off the entities and instead, directing it towards the relationship between entities. It is his application of complexity theory to Friedman’s that made his analysis so appealing and interesting to the judges.


Universal Ownership in the Anthropocene (Dr Ellen Quigley, University of Cambridge)

Universal Ownership is gaining prominence around the world. It is a way for asset owners to change the world for the better through active ownership, influencing public policy, and embracing ESG considerations in their investment strategies. This paper by Dr Ellen Quigley tells the story of universal ownership so far, and what it could become over the coming years.

Responsible Investment Bill (ShareAction, 2020)

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility (and connectedness) of global societies. But not just people – systems too. This Responsible Investment Bill, authored by ShareAction, aims to provide a vision for a clearer and stronger role for the financial system within society and the economy. It is topical and innovative in its solution.

Assessing System-Level Investments (Steve Lydenberg and Bill Burckart, 2020)

This guide by Steve Lydenberg and Bill Burckart aims to give asset owners practical help on how to assess their respective managers’ effectiveness in addressing systemic social and environmental risks and rewards. It highlights how system-level thinking in our industry is weak. The authors advance the idea that the use of judgement is valid and essential alongside data.



The Thinking Ahead Institute is a global not-for-profit group whose aim is to mobilise capital for a sustainable future. The Institute’s members comprise asset owners, investment managers and other groups that are motivated to influence the industry for the good of savers worldwide. It has over 45 members with combined responsibility for over US$12 trillion and is an outgrowth of Willis Towers Watson Investments’ Thinking Ahead Group.



View all Award category winners and read the latest news from Savvy Investor directly from CEO Andrew Perrins in the 2020 Awards Magazine. Download now!



The Savvy Investor Awards celebrate the best content from across the global institutional investment industry. We present awards across 14 different categories including the best overall paper.

Every year our Content Team handpicks and uploads over 10,000 articles and papers to the Savvy Investor platform. This library, alongside engagement data from 50,000+ members, means our judges are well-placed to identify and assess the award-worthy papers of 2020. The Awards are judged on many elements including the depth, quality, readability, and of course, appeal and relevance to our institutional investor audience. In a world saturated with content, and where it’s difficult to cut through the noise, it is a great pleasure to highlight quality, cutting edge, and deeply engaging thought leadership for the investment community.

As the leading content hub for institutional investors, the Savvy Investor Awards were designed to help to affirm or establish authors and firms as true thought leaders within the industry.



To find out how you can partner with Savvy Investor to enhance your thought leadership credentials in the institutional investor marketplace, please contact our Head of Partner Sales, Stuart Blake,



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