For Purpose Investment Partners is building a dedicated social impact investment fund with hopes to attract large-scale private capital and accelerate social impact investing in Australia.

The not-for-profit firm is being built on the back of the combined experience of ex-NAB-Chief Andrew Thorburn and impact-pioneer Michael Traill. With its focus on aged-care and disability housing, it hopes to raise a $250 million fund to bring private capital to sector historically dependent on government support

Few individuals in Australia are better qualified than Michael Traill, after his pioneering work building the Goodstart Early Learning business, with assets salvaged from the wreckage of ABC Learning Centres going into liquidation. He’s also Chair of the PM’s taskforce into Social Impact Investing. 

Andrew Thorburn was previously CEO of NAB, since then, he’s dedicated his work to the social impact space, attending workshops at the Aspen Institute, and stepping in to act as temporary chief at Impact Investment Group (IIG), after Daniel Madhavan stepped down. 

And, Chris Yoo is the third executive director. He has long experience as a PE investor and corporate advisor. He’s also chair of the Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS).

Thorburn, Traill and Yoo have aspirations to build a fund that goes beyond what currently exists in Australia. 

“We feel there’s no dedicated social impact fund or business like ours that exists, certainly not one that’s driving for such scale, where we can really bring private capital to bear to make a real difference to these material issues. And, aiming to make decent returns along the way, there’s no trade-off.” Thorburn says. “We know the government’s doing a lot, but we also know that government commitments of capital won’t be enough. It’s got to be supplemented by private capital that can truly capitalise this sector and transform it.”

The investment firm has defined its approach through five pillars: skills education, disability housing, social and affordable housing, mental health, and aged care. They’ve made two preliminary acquisitions, the first to support Summer Foundation’s specialist disability accommodation project, Summer Housing. The second went to an equity stake in Catalyst Education, where Thorburn is now chairman. Catalyst offers certified training, qualifying people to go out and care for people with disabilities, for old people in aged care homes, or to care for young kids. 

As Thorburn says, “It’s a really great social impact business, and their whole business starts with this premise that its purpose is to create learners who can go out, not just with the right qualification, but with the right heart and skills to care for people who are, what we would deem, to be more vulnerable in society.”

While these two acquisitions won’t be in the fund, they have served to prove the thesis that private capital will be attracted to both the stability and the deep impact of these types of social impact themes.

“We’re now confident that there’s opportunities out there, that’s what we really wanted to prove. But also, that we could actually deploy the capital. If you look at aged care, there’s an obvious need for more investment, for more technology, probably for stronger governance, and a need for a new operating model, which we think we’re well suited for, because we’re a not for profit social impact manager. But we’re also focussed on the long-term, to really put the care for people at the centre of the story.”

The team is currently aiming to raise $250 million, explaining that it will give them scope and flexibility to grow, to amalgamate various acquisitions, and embed the technology and governance required for growth. 

Initial funding has come from private investors and foundations, and going forward, there’s hope the nature and size of the deals, and their recognisable impact, will lend itself to capital allocations from institutional investors like super funds. 

“We’re building relationships, we’re talking to them, and I feel confident that over time, they’ll be very significant investments in this field. But of course, when you’re pioneering new work, it takes time. It takes time to get comfortable with what you’re doing, your calculations, and they need to do their own due diligence.” Thorburn says.

Andrew Thorburn and Michael Traill are joined on the board of For Purpose Impact Partners by Wendy McCarthy and Mark Carnegie, with Don Luke as Chairman.

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