Jeff Haanen

Category

Finance

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FinanceVocationWork

Why Every Faith-Driven Investment Firm Needs to Hire a Theologian

Recently I got a prospectus from a faith-motivated advisory firm that outlines what they invest in as Christians. On one level, the responses were predictable. They don’t invest in alcohol, cannabis, pornography, or weapons. And they do invest in companies that have ethical leadership, policies that value employees, and a “positive societal impact.”

But after reading the prospectus, I had to pause and say to myself: this is really, complex stuff.

On one level, investing is quite straightforward: capital should be used to bring about returns. Yet, what is positive societal impact? What companies are “ethical” and which aren’t?  Aren’t all companies – like people, a mix of good and bad, moral and immoral? How do you even think through ethics? And which societal impacts are primary, and which are secondary? Why?

I’m not trying to be esoteric. Here’s an example for you for you make an investment decision, shared with me by a dear friend and leader in the faith-based investing space.

Example 1: Building materials company

  • The employee stock ownership plan or ESOP is 9.5% of total shares outstanding. To date, 40K employees participate and the company matches up to 6% contribution.  
  • Their promote-from-within culture focuses on investing in talent and yields a low voluntary turnover rate of 7-8%. Post-college entry-level training program (with average starting salary ~$47k according to Glassdoor) teaches how to manage store P&L. The CEO came up through the same program.

Example 2: Restaurant franchise company

  • 95%+ of US franchisees started as drivers or hourly workers in stores. “Everyone is trained to become a manager from the first day”, according to a former franchise employee. Cross-training is the norm. 
  • Store start-up cost is $300K vs $4-5M for some other large concepts, making franchise ownership accessible to the middle class. According to one industry expert, “for someone making $60K a year, opening a franchise is possible”.
  • Franchisees go through franchise management school program to ensure success.
  • During COVID, the company paid $10M in year-end bonuses to >10K company employees in addition to bonuses paid in March/April 2020 and expanded/extended sick leave benefits.

Now, both seem to be solid public companies having a good impact on employees and are profitable.

But how do you decide between the two? Returns? Opportunity for low-income employees? Or do you prioritize the product itself: would you rather invest in expanding a building materials company or a fast-food business? Or do you instead decide to look into the environmental practices of their supply chains?

Investment analysis obviously goes through a financial filter. And increasingly so, it goes through some combination of a social or ethical filter. But what of theology? For the secular investment firm, this, of course, makes little sense. (Though, whether they acknowledge it or not, all their investments are going through a philosophical filter.) But for the faith-driven investor, isn’t “the faith once entrusted to the saints” the most central filter for investing in any company (Jude 1:3)?

If so, are you sure that your perspective on faith and investing is coming from historic Christian belief rather than, say, your cultural background, your social class, your family of origin, your education, your political persuasion, or your own church’s emphases?

Let me make that case that every faith-driven investor needs to hire a theologian. Here are three reasons.

1. Combining faith with investing is inherently complex.

Here’s what faith-driven investors are trying to do. They’re trying to take ancient texts written originally in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew to ancient peoples, grasp the core teachings of these texts enough to then understand the core doctrines of Christian belief developed over 2,000 years of church history, apply those doctrines to the modern social construct of business with all the complexity of finance, marketing, operations, and sales, and then decide on which businesses to invest in based on those beliefs and practices!

To go from the book of Daniel to fintech, or from the Doctrine of the Trinity to human resource practices is not for the faint of heart!

Far too often in the faith-motivated investing space have I seen simplistic interpretations of texts (like the parable of the talents) to investing, without understanding the doctrinal, historical, or social context of particular passages, or even their own biases in reading the Bible as 21st century American Christians. Just like finance, doing theology well requires knowledge, practice, and a breadth of learning.

The reality is, we need experts who can help wade through these waters if we actually want our core investment philosophy to be Christian.

2. Theologians bring a unique set of specialized skills.

Ever since the Protestant Reformation, we’ve believed that since we can all read the Bible for ourselves, we can understand it just as well as the next person. Now, I’m a big fan of everybody reading the Bible, but this has led to a deep devaluing not just of pastors, but those who have literally spent decades studying theology and scripture – like theologians. To say that “anybody can understand the Bible” to a theologian is like me saying to an investor that there’s no difference between a managing partner at Blackrock and an entry-level financial advisor at Thrivent. They’re both equally valuable in the eyes of God, but they’re not both equally competent or knowledgeable when it comes to investing.

Years ago, we at Denver Institute for Faith & Work hired Ryan Tafilowski as a “resident theologian.” He has a Th.M. in ecclesiastical (church) history and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Edinburgh. He writes and speaks on inter-religious dialogue, historical theology, and ethics. And to top it off, his ability to recall episodes of Arrested Development is astounding (to the great delight of our entire staff team).

Over the years, Ryan has taught our staff team everything from political theology to the doctrine of sin. And when we’re weighing in on tough social issues, ranging from gender to race to immigration to how much profit we should reinvest versus give, his expertise in theological foundations and frameworks has regularly surprised and delighted us. Often, it has completely transformed our views of an issue.  

Ryan has education and knowledge that I don’t have. Because this is true, when he speaks,  though I’m technically his boss, I’m careful to listen. He actually knows more than I do about the “faith” aspect of “faith and work.” He adds tremendous value to the team, not just in production, but in faithfulness to our own tradition – a tradition I’m still just learning about.

Having a theologian on my staff is incredibly valuable.

3. They’re worth the investment.

Now, the vast majority of theologians don’t know the first difference between public equities and private equity. To that end, they need to listen to professional investors. Yet I believe that professional investors also need to listen to theologians.

I believe it’s worth having a full-time theologian on the staff of every faith-motivated investment firm. They should weigh in on every social, ethical, political, or philosophical decision, drawing the company continually back to the great drama of Scripture, the creeds, and the history of the Church, and what they mean for investing today.

One of our five guiding principles at Denver Institute is to think theologically: “Embracing the call to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ, we value programs that enable men and women to verbally articulate how Scripture, the historic church, and the gospel of grace influence their work and cultural engagement.”  To do this, we need theologians to guide, illuminate, and advise. This is why having a resident theologian on our staff is a necessity, not a luxury. (Can’t convince your nonbelieving partners to hire a theologian? Fear not: the vast majority of theologians would happily take the title “Philosopher in Residence.”)

And on the bright side, compared to your typical MBA from Kellogg, theologians are relatively cheap. With thousands more PhDs in theology than there are professorships, there is certainly market supply.

Yet I’d say they’re worth their weight in gold. Some may balk at this comparison to theologians and gold: $1764 per ounce, assuming a 150-pound theologian, are they really worth $4,233,600?

Depending on what you’re investing in, they might just be…

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Jeff Haanen is the Founder and CEO of the educational nonprofit Denver Institute for Faith & Work, CityGate, a national network of leaders working at the intersection of faith, work, justice and community renewal, and The Faith & Work Classroom, a free, online learning platform.

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Architecture and DesignArtCraftsmanship & Manual LaborCultureEconomyEducationFaith and Work MovementFinanceNonprofitScienceTechnologyVocationWork

Faith and Work Bible Study

Friends, a happy Labor Day to you!

To celebrate your work, I wanted to give you a gift: a free Bible study on Faith and Work.

The study is structured around people’s stories. In a series of articles, I highlighted the way people are living out their faith in the workplace.

Each study has a brief story Bible study participants can read at home. After each article, and before the study, we encourage you to Pause and Reflect on what the story might be telling you about God’s call for your own work.

The Bible study is structured around six sections: Introduce, Discuss, Explore, Apply, Closing Thoughts, and Prayer. It also has additional Resources.

Here are the weekly topics for “His Story, Our Stories: Encountering God Through Our Work”:

(1) “Light for Electricians,” (Creation)

(2) “Investments for the Kingdom” (Calling)

(3) “Showing Hospitality to Strangers and Spring Breakers” (Fall)

(4) “Productivity and Grace: Management and Labor at a Denver Manufacturer,” (Witness at Work)

(5) “A Well-Designed Journal Can Change Your Life,” (Culture)

(6) “A Growing Charter School Planted in Rocky Soil,” (Organizations/Companies)

Enjoy!

Looking for more material? Visit Scatter.org.

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BusinessEconomyFinanceRetirementWork

A Manifesto for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors play a critical role in the future of America.

They are stewards of a sacred trust, helping clients to save money for when they can no longer work, live a life of generosity, invest in businesses that align with God’s purposes for the world, spend wisely, and re-discover their calling to work and serve their neighbors over a lifetime.

If you’re a financial advisor, or you know one, what might it look like integrate Christian truth into this entire field, a $27 trillion-dollar industry that is shaping the destinies of millions?[i] (Click here to access a free downloadable pdf of this “Manifesto for Financial Advisors.”)

Here’s a place to begin.

1.Christian financial advisors help clients save money for when they can no longer work.

Saving is wise (Proverbs 21:20). Financial advisors have the privilege of encouraging people to prepare for the day when they cannot work due to old age or health. They also have the honor of helping clients still have enough to share with others (Proverbs 13:22; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

But Christian financial advisors resolutely resist the narrative about saving for retirement built on utopian dreams of travel, never-ending vacation, and a care-free lifestyle. They recognize that sin and the Fall have affected all people, both wealthy and poor, and that there is no such dream of heaven on earth until Christ comes again. They also boldly call into question fear-based motives for saving in retirement, pointing people to trust God alone for their daily bread.

Also, since retirement (the cessation of work for a lifetime) is essentially a foreign concept to the Bible, Christian financial advisors work diligently to help people save for the day when they can no longer work due to health concerns, not for the day when they don’t want to work.

To work is to be human.

Financials advisors help their clients save money for retirement in order to provide for themselves in old age or illness, their family, and their community.

2. Christian financial advisors encourage clients to live a life of generosity.

God’s call to generous giving could not be clearer (Matthew 6:19-21; 10:42; Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 1 John 3:16-18; Proverbs 11:24-25). Generous living most closely reflects God’s grace toward his people (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Christian financial advisors counsel clients toward sacrificial giving toward the mission of the church, the well-being of the poor, and the critical social, economic, and cultural needs of our day. They explore creative ways to facilitate their clients giving their cash, assets, time, skills, relationships, and influence. They lead by example.

Even though Christian financial advisors often don’t have a financial incentive to encourage generosity amongst their clients, they do so anyway because God first gave generously to them (John 3:16). 

3. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to invest in businesses that align with God’s purposes for the world.

Christian financial advisors believe that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1), including both their client’s money and also the money that is invested in companies through stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

They are leaders in the space of socially responsible investing (some Christians also call this values-based investing, or biblically responsible investing). They believe God’s purpose for business is to provide for the needs of world by serving customers and creating meaningful work, while giving glory to God.[ii] Profit, therefore, is a means to an end, not the end of business. They believe investments are intended to help businesses grow and bless their communities. Christian financial advisors also believe business has been tainted by the Fall, and today corporations, like individuals, are bent toward greed and injustice (Micah 6:8-10). There are no “neutral” investments.

Inasmuch as they are able, Christian financial advisors seek out investments for their clients that align with their client’s values and God’s good purposes for business. They take leadership in providing ample returns for their clients and multiplied societal blessing through their client’s investments.[iii]

4. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to spend wisely.

God has given us money to be enjoyed and spent wisely. But Christian financial advisors also recognize that “godliness with contentment is great gain,” and Christian history is filled with vows of poverty and commitment to simple living for the sake of more deeply enjoying the riches of Christ (1 Timothy 6:6, 17-19).  Frugality is not a curse but a means to experiencing the abundance of God’s love, care, and heavenly riches.

Christian financial advisors are uniquely able to speak to our cultural moment and the current “retirement crisis” because they believe God himself, not the pleasures of this world, is our greatest joy. They believe in a deeper wealth than what money can offer.[iv]

Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to avoid debt, live within their means, defer gratification, and discover non-consumeristic ways to enjoy life and God’s good world.

5. Christian financial advisors counsel their clients to consider the different seasons of work over a lifetime.

Christian financial advisors see God’s pattern of six days of work and one day of rest as a blessing that lasts for a lifetime.

Rather than preparing clients to completely cease from work at retirement, they encourage sabbaticals and seasons of rest to renew a sense of calling for the next phase of life.

Therefore, they are instigators of a deeply counter-cultural movement. They begin to help clients save money for both sabbaticals and for when their clients can no longer work. They ask pointed questions to help their clients see a deeper purpose to life than entertainment or pleasure.  Christian financial advisors, then, become sages, mentors, theologians, and philosophers who help their clients prepare for the next season of work, whether they are 60, 70, or 80 years old.[v]

Christian financial advisors are the innovators who call for a new movement of work, sabbatical, and re-engagement based on God’s design for work over a lifetime (Leviticus 25).[vi] They openly challenge the Let’s vacation paradigm of retirement, and honor the men and women who work later in life as the dignified elders of our churches, communities, and society.

They are the first to point out the valuable, brilliant, and creative work of men and women stewarding their skills, knowledge, and abilities into the sunset of their lives.

For a free downloadable version of this manifesto, visit https://www.uncommonretirement.com/financial-advisors.


[i] Nick Thornton, “Here’s What the $27 Trillion US Retirement Industry Looks Like,” Think Advisor, 2 January 2018, Accessed on August 10, 2018: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2018/01/02/heres-what-the-27-trillion-us-retirement-industry/?slreturn=20180714204623.

[ii] Jeff Haanen, “Theology for Business (Video),” Denver Institute for Faith & Work, Accessed on August 1, 2018: https://denverinstitute.org/video-the-purpose-of-business-today/.

[iii] Organizations like the Christian Investment Forum and faith-friendly mutual funds like Eventide Funds actively explore how to pursue competitive returns for their shareholders while upholding Christian values. For examples of philosophies of Christian faith and investing, watch the video “Investing 360 – The Story of Eventide Funds”: https://vimeo.com/223488058 or read “Integrating Faith Into the Way We Invest,” by Tim Macready, CIO of Christian Super, an Australian Pension Fund: https://denverinstitute.org/integrating-faith-way-invest/.

[iv] For an excellent treatment on faith, money, and retirement, see: Chad S. Hamilton, Deep Wealth (Denver: PFI Publishing, 2015).

[v] I recognize this is almost unheard of today. But my thesis in this book is that this rhythm of work and rest is more biblical than the contemporary idea of retirement and it more closely aligns with God’s intent for us to work, in different capacities, over a lifetime.

[vi] Rob West, the CEO of Kingdom Advisors, a Christian ministry to financial professionals, says, “One of the roles of the advisor is to not only help the client to answer the question, ‘How much is enough financially?’ – in terms of our financial finish line so we can maximize giving – but also, ‘What are you going to do in the retirement season?’ Even if we stop our vocation, what are we going to do to be of service to the Lord full-time for God’s glory?” Both Rob West and Ron Blue, the founder of Ron Blue Co. believe both wise financial decisions and a lifetime of work, which changes in different seasons, are biblical.

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FinanceWork

Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds

Months ago I first ran into Tim Weinhold, one of the speakers at next week’s “Stocks, Bonds & Mutual Funds: How Theology Can Renew Investing and Wealth Management.

After I read one of his articles, Business: Engine of Biblical Blessings, I decided to reach out for a phone call. After chatting for 20 minutes, I learned he was a Harvard grad, faculty member at the Seattle Pacific University, and co-founder of four businesses. But what struck me as strange was his current role: Director of Faith & Business at Eventide Funds.

What kind of a mutual fund, I wondered, hires a guy to think about and write articles on Christianity and business?

Months later, I met Robin John, the CEO at Eventide, and his associate, John Siverling, the CEO of the Christian Investment Forum, for happy hour at Yard House in Park Meadows. Over chips and salsa they riffed on topics like “socially responsible investing” and a new term I had never heard before: “biblically responsible investing.”

I was a novice — and knew I needed to learn more.

Before I met the guys at Eventide Funds, and now my friend Chad Hamilton at Mariner Wealth Advisors, I hadn’t given much thought to the $28 trillion dollars currently invested in mutual funds, much less where my own retirement fund is invested.

But these guys made me pause: do I believe in these companies (or even know what companies are in my mutual funds)? Are they doing good in the world — or harming those God cares about? Can I be smarter about where I put the small amount of money entrusted to me?

Here are five reasons to attend “Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds” on June 8:

  1. Scripture is not silent on God’s purpose for business, and, thus, God’s view on wealth creation and investing.

Tim Weinhold will speak directly on God’s purpose for business, and what it might mean for how we think about investing. From Mosaic law to Wall Street in 20 minutes—that’s no small leap.

  1. The vast majority of Christians — myself included — have never thought twice about where our money is invested, as long as we get a financial return.

I’m guilty as charged, here. Months ago I simply chose the robo-investor that promised highest returns for the least amount of work. But have I erred? Might I be promoting businesses that are actually causing the problems my charitable giving is addressing?

Oops.

Perhaps taking the mercenary approach (earn a bunch so I can give it away) isn’t quite right. And maybe it’s overlooking the “social return,” as Chad Hamilton says, business are already having right now.

  1. The event will help to clarify a host of perspectives, like “socially responsible investing”, “values based investing,” “biblically responsible investing,” and “impact investing.”

Mystifying. What’s the difference between all of these? What does it mean when a company is “extracting value” vs “creating value?”

There may be no 100% clean answers, but can I at least get clear on the options out there so I can make a more faithful decision with my finances?

  1. We’ll dive into the tough questions related to faith and investing, like “How responsible am I for the business decisions of companies I invest in?” and “What is the best way to do good through investing?

It gets complicated. Once we find out what exact companies are in those mutual funds, what then? What are business practices I wouldn’t want to support? What are ones that would be a good idea to invest more in?

And can I still make at least a significant return on my money for retirement? With four little kids at home I feel old age fast approaching….

  1. We’ll have the chance to examine the values that drive our own investing, and what different choices we might make with the capital entrusted to us.

So how much should I give, save, spend and invest? And why?  Do I want to retire early because I’m just burnt out on work? If so, will that make me happy? What values do I want my kids to adopt about money? How will I teach that to them? What does it mean to have real impact in the world with my portfolio?

Investing for Social Impact from Chad Hamilton on Vimeo.

We’ll dive into these questions on the evening of June 8 at the Commons @ Champa. I hope you’ll join us for a bright conversation on faith, money and investing for good in the world.

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ArtCraftsmanship & Manual LaborCultureEconomyEducationFinanceMediaNonprofitPoliticsScienceTechnologyTheologyWorkWorld

Announcement: Launch of the 5280 Fellowship

Today is a big day.

Today my colleagues and I at Denver Institute for Faith & Work, in partnership with Gordon College, announce the launch of the 5280 Fellowship, a 9 month experience for emerging leaders beginning in the fall of 2016.

After years of planning, design and forging partnerships, each element of the program has fallen into place. And now what we are now offering is, I believe, one of the best faith-based fellowship programs in the US, and perhaps Denver’s premiere leadership experience for young professionals.

I know those are big claims. But I believe the 5280 Fellowship has the potential to deeply impact Denver for generations to come. And I’m not alone.

Some of Denver’s finest pastors – like Robert Gelinas (Colorado Community Church), Brad Strait (Cherry Creek Presbyterian), Rob Brendle (Denver United), Brian Brown (Park Church) and Hunter Beaumont (Fellowship Denver) – believe the Fellowship can be a life-changing experience for young professionals who want to deeply engage themes of calling, work, and culture.

Young professionals like Steven Strott (Cool Planet Energy Systems) and Amy Wofford (The Commons at Champa) see the value of connecting to a community of faithful leaders in Denver and articulate how important work is to the flourishing of a city.

And Dr. Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College who has deeply studied the world’s most effective leadership program, the White House Fellowship, believes this program, which has been modeled largely on his research, will give young professionals:

  • “deep relationships that span the city,”
  • a vision for how “the gospel provides a kind of connective tissue, helping us to see how does science and technology relate to the arts and entertainment,”
  • and a “catalyst in your career for the prospering not only of the wider culture, but also your life.”

Needless to say, if you’re asking big questions about the role of Christians in culture; if you’re interested in the relevance of the gospel to all of life; if you’re wondering about your own calling; and if you’re up for a challenge that could catalyze your career — then I encourage you to learn more at an upcoming info session.

Some of you may also be interested why we built the program as we did. On this blog, over the next several weeks, I’d like to peel back the veil on the principles underlying the Fellowship and why we built the program as we did. Blog posts will cover topics like:

  • Why Some Doctors Read the History of Opera: Leadership and Liberal Arts Thinking
  • EQ: Why Being a Good Conversationalist Might Be More Important Than an MBA
  • Why Nothing Before Age 20 Matters (And Why Your 20s-40s are the Most Critical to Career Success)
  • Calling: Learning to Listen to the Caller
  • Spelunking, Cave Formations and Culture Change
  • Our Common Longing: Meaningful Work
  • The Church in the World: Reformation, not Revolution
  • The Future of Higher Education: Friendships and the Information Deluge
  • The Golden Web: Mentors, Networks, and the Hidden Leadership Curriculum
  • Mission: Larger Than A Two Week Trip Overseas
  • Scattered: Being the Church Monday-Saturday
  • Significant Work: Developing a Taste for Tackling Big Problems

The launch of any new educational experience is really just the beginning of a conversation. This is a conversation on what it means to be fully human in this time and this place. I’d like to take the chance to invite you into this community.

I’d love to hear any and all feedback as the conversation grows. I hope you’ll consider joining me on this adventure into our own souls, the life of our city, and the heart of God.

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EconomyFinance

Review of Young Money

Today Christianity Today published my review of Kevin Roose’s Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash RecruitsThe book was literally hard to put down. As Roose unfolds the experience of eight young college graduates at the world’s most powerful investment banks, he captures the reader with a haunting portrayal of work that in almost every way destroys a soul. If I ever needed motivation to build Denver Institute for Faith & Work, I need look no further. 

Here’s the first part of the review:

Only halfway through his first year as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, Jeremy Miller-Reed fell into a deep depression. The 100-hour work weeks and endless Excel spreadsheets he could handle. But his boss, Penelope, he could not. Penelope looked like Julia Roberts but had the personality of Genghis Khan. Junior analysts dreaded her wrath. After assigning a 20-page memo to Jeremy over her vacation, she returned to find a single page missing. “You had all week to get this right!” she screamed. That night, Jeremy went to the roof of his apartment, lit up a joint, and cried in the rain, thinking to himself I can’t do this anymore.

In college, Jeremy, like most young financial analysts, was bright, motivated, and had high hopes. He graduated from Columbia University, and in the summer of 2010 was excited to begin a career at Goldman Sachs selling commodities—oil, gas, corn, wheat, precious metals. Lured by a starting salary of $70,000, plus bonuses of up to $50,000, he rationalized that a two-year stint as an investment banker would be good experience for a planned career in urban design or politics. It was a common decision among his peers. At Harvard in 2008, 28 percent of seniors headed into financial services, and at Princeton in 2006, it was a stunning 46 percent. But for Jeremy, it was a decision that would haunt him—as it would the sorry cast of Kevin Roose’s new book Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits.

From 2010-2013, Roose, a business writer for New York magazine, shadowed eight freshly minted investment bankers during their first two years on Wall Street, tracking their stories. From starry-eyed interns to disillusioned, exhausted, and depressed spreadsheet jockeys, Roose’s Young Money reads like a handbook for everything and anything than can go wrong with work.

Moral Black Hole

The work of young analysts is often mind-numbing. Most investment bank rookies spend days (and nights) creating “pitch books”—hundreds of pages of financial data for companies considering buying other companies. After hours of formatting cells, creating graphs, and producing Excel models, often pitch books would be blasted by bosses… (read more)