Role & Organisation:
Co-Founder, Benefit Capital
What was your first job?
I’ve had a job since I was 10 years old. My first job was as a cleaner in people’s homes working with one of my older sisters. I was also the cleaner at a bakery with one of my other sisters after school. Work ethic and independence were part of my life from an early age and the type of work I did meant that I saw how people in positions of power can abuse that and treat others as if they are “less than”. I’ve been reading and shifting power dynamics my whole life!
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
My journey for over 20 years has been one of bringing together pieces of me that fit in different sectors and creating the environments in which they can cohabitate in ways they never could if I had chosen to go into one sector alone. I discovered early that I wasn’t a neat fit for the Non-profit world, Government, or Corporate. I see beautiful benefits and strengths in each and my work has been to merge the best of those worlds to find ways to contribute.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
My exposure goes back to the 1990s and began with the wonderful Trevor Thomas and the work that Ethinvest did as the first ethical investment advisors in Australia. My Mum’s idea of a family holiday was going to the TEAR conference and Trevor was someone who I heard speak and had the privilege of spending time with as a teenager. I remember him coming to my school and speaking at an event in the library where he talked about the fact that even on an average wage we would each have around two million dollars pass through our hands over our lifetime and we could decide how we were going to use that money in ways that were aligned with who we were and what we wanted to be part of in the world. Those ideas never left me and still shape all my work to this day.
In 2000 I had the opportunity to work with Trevor at Ethinvest and was able to see up close how that way of operating and investing was taking shape. When I started The Difference Incubator (TDi) in 2010 to try and address the lack of investable opportunities that were available in the impact investment market it was fascinating to see that people who were just coming into the impact investment space were saying all the same things people had been saying in the early days of ethical investment. The mindset that doing good and making money are mutually exclusive is strong for most people. My work with my business partner of nearly 12 years, Paul Steele, has been to bring “Doing Good AND Making Money” back together because I passionately believe they can be mutually reinforcing.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
I am actually about to launch a new venture where I am focusing on individuals who, to the outside world, look like they have “made it” but are feeling unfulfilled and searching for more meaning in their work and life. On the back of working in businesses and designing business models, interventions and enabling systems for 20 years I have seen time and again the need for business owners and leaders to pause and do the internal work to first gain clarity and alignment in themselves before pushing out into seeking to have an impact in the world. Through my coaching, both 1:1 and in my group program, and my podcast that I will be launching this year, I’ll be supporting people in this space so that they can be unlocked to massively increase the positive impact they can have on the world and do it in a way that is in flow and sustainable for them rather than exhausting and unfulfilling.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any organisation across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
The Trade Finance Vehicle is a collaboration around menstrual health enterprises that seeks to address challenges within the supply chain across the Pacific. It is providing trade finance to local producers, improving their access to materials, improving the prices they pay for them, and supporting their cash flow. It was initiated by the PacificRISE program, heavily supported by the Criterion Institute, and driven by Red Hat Impact and Lotus Impact.
The deal has recently transitioned to a second investment term with Term 1 investors receiving the Term 1 investment payments and unanimously preferring to roll over their investment into a new term. I have loved being part of this, first as a member of the PacRISE committee and then as an investor myself. I’m looking forward to seeing where this investment goes and the lessons and replication it inspires elsewhere.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
I’m going to cheat with my answer here and rather than name one company say that investors should keep their eye on deals with an approach that sees impact investment as a lens not an asset class. When you do this you broaden out what you look at and how you think of the ways you can be part of supporting issues or contributing to impact you care about.
With this in mind I’m going to give a shout out to the wonderful work of my friend Rachael Neumann and her business partner Kylie Frazer at Flying Fox Ventures. They are creating an impressive community of early stage investors. This is the second year that I have been investing with them and I’m loving the opportunity to invest in a wide range of early stage companies. A reminder that all businesses are having an impact and it’s simply a question of whether it’s a positive one, followed by whether it’s something that resonates with you and you want to be a part of is how I’d love for investors to engage with their investments and the opportunities that come across their desks.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
I want to see a more inclusive approach to impact investment. The invitation should be broad and wide and speaking in to all people about the fact that even if all you have financially is a bank account and a superannuation fund you can be an impact investor.
When each of us takes responsibility for the decisions we have control over, big or small, collectively we can change the world. Impact investment isn’t new, it’s not scary, it’s not innovative. It is a return to the roots of business and what it is to be human.