Stavros Siokos is managing partner of London-based Astarte Capital Partners, the firm he co-founded in 2015. Previously, Siokos was CEO of Sciens Alternative Investments, where he led the development of the firm’s liquid alternatives and real assets strategies. He holds an electrical and computer engineering diploma from the University of Patras, Greece, a MSc in the same field and a Ph.D. in operations research from the University of Massachusetts. Drew Campbell, senior editor of Institutional Investing in Infrastructure, recently asked Siokos about Astarte’s newly launched program for education investments with underprivileged youth. The program is focused on Europe and North America and will involve collaborating with a handful of institutions, such as high schools, colleges and universities.
How did the idea for this ESG program come about?
Education of underprivileged youth is something that I have been supporting since the day I graduated from my Ph.D. in Massachusetts in the mid-nineties. Throughout my education, I witnessed a lot of brilliant, talented youths who could not afford to study because of difficult conditions in their life. In most cases, this difficulty was translating into a huge financial strain. For those talented kids who were hungry to learn, education was an unreachable dream. Based on this experience and the struggles I personally faced, I decided to commit a significant portion of my income — no matter how big my income became — to offer young underprivileged people top-quality education.
Are there goals for the students receiving these investments?
My hope is that they will make a difference in the world, and I am happy to report that several of them really are making our world better. My aim is to give support to people from all over the world, independent of their ethnicity, or anything else. As a struggling student, I could not get any support because I did not fit any classified bucket. The only commitment that I requested from the people receiving support was that they try to do the same later in their life for someone else in need.
How did you broach the idea with your team?
I shared this experience with all the partners of the firm, and given that we all have a significant sensitivity toward supporting our communities, we agreed to expand this effort into a firm initiative.
Is this something other firms in your market do as well?
As far as I am aware, we are the first private equity firm to be committed toward allocating part of our profitability for such an initiative. We are also looking to bring this effort to a wider audience of asset managers so that the initiative has a much larger impact.
Are these investments ongoing and recurring, or is it a one-time investment?
We aim to allocate this capital annually based on our profitability.
Are these charitable contributions, grants or something else?
We are currently working with three top educational institutions on identifying what is the optimal structure. Our aim is to be something simple and efficient that works for each of them.
How did Astarte select the schools?
We select schools based on personal experience. We are looking for top schools that have a similar mindset as us and care for excellence in education and giving back to the community.
Are there reviews of how the investment is used, what the results are and whether there are additional needs for these schools and students?
It is early days. We are working with the schools on this. We will have to learn a lot, but as I said before, we would like to keep things simple and efficient.
Does Astarte meet the students/administrators who receive these resources and learn of their goals, progress and achievements?
We aim to meet the students on a one-to-one basis. Money is not the only thing we want to offer. Mentoring is part of our approach. We prefer to have fewer kids that we can really pay attention to and make a difference, rather than a massive program without a personal touch.