Your Haas Network

Social Impact With Finance

After more than 12 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, John Olson recently moved to Manhattan to join an arm of Goldman Sachs that focuses on social impact investing— producing a financial return while making a positive difference in low-income communities.

Olson became a vice president at the firm’s Urban Investment Group, which makes loans and investments that benefit urban communities. One recent project: using social impact bonds to bring cognitive behavioral therapy to Rikers Island.

“I’m delighted to be on the team that has pioneered this financial instrument in the U.S. and is on the cutting edge of social impact investing,” says Olson.

The concept driving the social impact bond is simple: A financial institution invests in a social program, and the government pays it back when the program meets specific goals. If Rikers Island recidivism drops, everyone wins.

Olson’s main responsibility is ensuring that Goldman Sachs Bank USA complies with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. The CRA encourages banks to lend to communities around them, rather than “redlining,” or discriminating against borrowers in particular neighborhoods.

One neighborhood in which Goldman invests, Harlem, is near Olson’s Morningside Heights home. He lives there with his wife, Kathy Kagan, BCEMBA 12, a classmate whom he met on his first day at Haas, and their 1-year-old son, Elijah.

“We’re in a moment where needs are great,” Olson says, “and it’s amazing to be part of a team that is thinking creatively about how financial capital can be used to address pressing social issues.”

[Back to top]

John Olson

John Olson, BCEMBA 12

VP and Community
Reinvestment Act Officer,
Goldman Sachs, New York