Role & Organisation: Co Founder, Impact Generation Partners
What was your first job?
My first jobs whilst at school were babysitting, working in retail and waitressing. After Uni my first professional job was as a solicitor in corporate law at Allens, but although there were aspects of the role I enjoyed, I was keen to find a role with purpose.
My first job in the philanthropic sector was at the Australian Women Donors Network (now Australians Investing in Women) where a focus on giving and investing with a gender lens was embedded in me for life!
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
After working in philanthropic services at the Myer Family Company, where I was focused on helping families and family foundations give away money strategically, I began to question why the focus was on the funds being donated, and not on the much larger amount of capital sitting in the corpuses of foundations. It seemed incongruent that there could be so much analysis and time spent on the much smaller amount that was being given away, when the much larger amount of capital may have been invested in companies that were causing the very problems the donations were attempting to solve.
I have also always had a focus on engaging the next generation, who tend to use all of their resources to help solve social and environmental problems, without distinguishing between investments or donations. Around this time I started reading Sir Ronald Cohen’s writings and I was hooked!
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
Becoming involved in impact investing led me to the finance and business world. My Co Founder in Impact Generation Partners is my husband Quentin, who has spent his career in the investment banking and corporate advisory worlds. Over the last seven years as we have invested in and worked with a number of incredible impact entrepreneurs and businesses, I have learned more about finance whilst Quentin has learned more about impact.
For purpose businesses that are genuinely solving social or environmental problems and have a strong business model have huge potential to scale with capital and thereby have significant impact. I am very involved in the philanthropic sector and believe that philanthropy has a crucial role to play, but we also need businesses to be involved if we are to solve all the problems that exist today.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
I was fortunate to have been Deputy Chair of the Expert Panel of the Federal Government’s Social Impact Investing Taskforce together with Chair Michael Traill and Expert Panel members Danny Gilbert, Catherine Brown and Sally McCutchan. Over a period of 18 months, we consulted widely with the impact investing sector, locally and globally, and presented a series of recommendations to the Prime Minster to build and invest in an ecosystem for the sector in Australia.
Our recommendations focus on early stage social enterprises as well as the institutional market and aim to bring the community, government, philanthropic and business sectors together to help reduce entrenched social disadvantage. The members of the Expert Panel have recently joined the Board of Impact Investing Australia and we remain determined to advocate for the implementation by the Federal Government of the Taskforce’s recommendations. If this were to occur it would be a game-changing development for the sector.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
I might be biased, but I think one of the most interesting impact deals over the past 12 months was the capital raising done by Jigsaw. Jigsaw is a not for profit social enterprise that trains and transitions people with disability into mainstream employment. Jigsaw’s vision for the future is an Australia where people with disability are fully included in the workforce.
After successfully operating hubs in Sydney and Brisbane, Jigsaw sought to raise capital to fund its national expansion, with the aim of creating 1000 traineeships and 600 award-wage jobs for people with disability by 2023, and transitioning 300 people with disability into mainstream employment each year.
Jigsaw completed a capital raise last year, which Impact Generation Partners advised on and invested in. The capital raise was structured as a loan, together with grant funding. The investor group was made up of a mixture of institutions, family offices and foundations, including the Westpac Foundation, Westpac Bank, the Paul Ramsay Foundation, the Grace & Emilio Foundation, the Snow Foundation, Impact Generation Partners, The RW Fenton Family Trust, The Bryan Foundation, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation. SEFA acted as Syndicate Agent for the investors.
The impact investment has been used to open hubs in Melbourne and Adelaide, to be followed by hubs in Canberra and Perth. Jigsaw’s success in securing funding for its national expansion is proof that the impact investment approach can work in a not-for-profit context when the business model and social impact is compelling, even where the financial return may be considered “below-market”.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
As we are all aware, the world is facing an ever increasing mental health crisis. Mental ill-health affects all Australians either directly or indirectly – one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year and many do not receive the support and treatment they need. This results in huge negative personal, social and economic impact.
Tacklit is a global company that was formed to help mental health practitioners and practices who are being asked to do more, but are reliant on technology that can’t keep up. Tacklit uses technology and data to empower mental healthcare practitioners to support their clients to live a happier and healthier life. It helps to provide data and insights on what works for who, in what scenario, thereby improving outcomes and lives. The Tacklit founding team has lived experience and tech expertise and is determined to enable increased access to mental health services and better outcomes for people with mental ill-health.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
All investing has impact – some positive, some negative, and I am hopeful that in 5 years time more investors are cognisant of the impact of their investments. I hope that in 5 years time, social impact investing has become more mainstream, the way that environmental impact investing already is.
I would hope to see a more well established impact investing ecosystem, supported by more intermediaries, with more investment from institutional investors including super funds, as well as more support for and nurturing of early stage social enterprises. I hope that by then, enough capital has been invested with impact that it has meaningfully moved the dial on reducing entrenched social disadvantage and improving lives, as well as creating a more sustainable planet.