How we developed our socially responsible scoring and portfolios 

Ben Merrick


3 min read

There are many of us at Nutmeg who view the launch of our new socially responsible investing (SRI) portfolios and scoring as long-overdue. They represent a meaningful step towards what we believe investing should be: radically transparent and accessible to all, without costing the Earth.

Ben-Merrick

There’s a reason they’ve been a long time in the making. We wanted to do something that could set a new and better course, not just for our customers, but for our industry as a whole. And that takes work, and time. Here’s how we went about it.

Talking to people 

With a project brief as wide-open as “build a socially responsible investing offering,” it becomes easy to do two things — be paralysed by indecision, and then just go with your first idea in the interest of getting something done. Finding the ‘better course’ follows what we always do with major projects at Nutmeg: we start by talking to people in order to discover their unmet and unarticulated needs, and then iterate our way to solutions that could meaningfully address them.

Research of this sort draws on methodologies from anthropological and social research. That is, in-depth interviews with regular people to learn in both broad and deep strokes how they view their relationship with their money and their responsibilities to their communities and the planet.

Cutting cubes out of fog

With a set of fascinating interviews under our belts, we were left with a cloud of stories, anecdotes, and insights. So the next piece of work meant answering this: how do we make sense of it all? Or to borrow a term from innovation strategist Larry Keeley, it means “cutting cubes out of fog”.

To do this, we apply a variety of analytical frameworks on top of the mess of qualitative data from the interviews. For example, a thematic analysis quickly revealed a few emerging patterns revolving around 1) the relationship between the individual and the collective, 2) attitudes versus behaviours, and 3) how a lack of clarity about perceived trade-offs can dampen commitment to social good.

Further analysis led us to a set of principles that we could use to guide our design decisions. Here are two of the highlight principles.

Get concrete

The more we know precisely how we make a positive impact on the world, the better we feel about it — and the more motivated we’ll be to keep it up.

Demystify the trade-offs

Sustainable investing indecision comes less from an internal moral battle and more from a clouded sense of trade-offs, pushing people back to a “safe” position that, if nothing else, is at least clear. By demystifying the trade-offs — the risks, costs, potential returns, and the impact on the self and the world — we equip people to decide for themselves. Transparency is empowering.

Pulling it all together

With a solid set of research-driven principles to guide us, we worked on designing a compelling solution. First, given the ‘Get concrete’ principle, on top of Nutmeg’s broader pursuit of radical transparency in investing, we knew we had to show real-world impacts and not just rely on labels of what is ‘ethical’. And we needed to do this not just for the new socially responsible portfolios that the investment team was busy building, but for all our portfolios — fixed allocation and fully managed portfolios alike.

To do all this, we needed to bring to life the thorough, in-depth data that powers these investment strategies. We challenged our team to find a way of allowing our customers to view their portfolios through the lens of social responsibility, providing deeper insight to empower their decision-making when it comes to their investments.

We’ve worked with MSCI — one of the world’s leading providers of sustainability data and analytics — to calculate you clear, reliable scores for your pots in three important categories: environmental, social, and governance, so-called ‘ESG’ criteria. You’ll see this data in your dashboard and on the pot details screens of our mobile apps, presented on equal footing with the returns and performance data you’ve been accustomed to. In this way, we hope to set a new standard for the industry, proclaiming that all investments should be assessed with impact in mind, not just returns.

Our designs for how we present this data, and how we present the choice to invest in a socially responsible portfolio or one of our traditional fixed or managed portfolios, went through numerous rounds of user testing and iterations to arrive at a solution we hope you’ll love. Of course, we’re only just getting started, and we’d like to keep improving.

Help us keep improving Nutmeg   

If you’re interested in helping Nutmeg continue to imagine products that improve your life today, give you more confidence in the future, and which are better for the world, go to your preference centre and make sure your ‘Surveys and feedback polls’ option is on.

Learn more about socially responsible investing at Nutmeg.

Risk warning

As with all investing, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio with Nutmeg can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest.

Ben Merrick

Ben Merrick

Ben is head of UX & design at Nutmeg. He ensures the company takes a people-centred approach to designing and building products that our customers love.


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