What was your first job?
I grew up in sunny Coffs Harbour on the north coast of NSW. My first casual job was at a surf wear store. I was 13 and gave generally poor advice on wetsuits and surfboards. After a few years I started working at a local cafe and restaurant where I learned to love cooking and hospitality.
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
During my senior years at high school, I really enjoyed economics and commerce, and dreamt up a plan of working as an economist for the Reserve Bank, that led me to study Business and Economics.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
I became familiar with the concept about 8 years ago. I had read about microfinance, the emergence of social impact bonds, and Australia’s first large scale impact investing deal involving the buyout of the collapsed ABC Learning (now Goodstart Early Learning).
In 2015 while working at KPMG I was part of a team that advised on social impact bond feasibility and social housing transactions under the NSW Social and Affordable Housing Fund 1.
I then undertook a Jawun secondment to the East Kimberly to work on a First Nations employment program. This experience really steered me to pursue a purpose driven career which is when I joined the impact investing team at Social Ventures Australia.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
At Conscious Invest we recently signed a large scale social and affordable housing transaction. Historically, despite strong demand by investors, private sector investments into social housing have been challenging because rents are typically below market rates.
With government playing a key enabling role, the model unlocks institutional scale private capital while working day-to-day with a not-for-profit community housing association.
We hope the model pioneers a new way to generate new social and affordable housing stock and we’ll share more details on this project in the coming months.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
This one was incepted more than 12 months ago but I think it demonstrates how impact investing can be used creatively to solve social issues, in this case, stigma against neurodiverse talent.
In late 2019 Impact Investment Group designed and arranged the first Beneficial Outcome Linked Debt (BOLD) Contract – a loan structure designed to invest in purpose-driven start-ups. The model provides debt that is reduced based on both repayments (as usual), but uniquely also based on positive impact. Repayments are based on a share of revenue, instead of an interest rate, which makes this suitable for start-ups.
BOLD’s first use case was to finance Xceptional, a tech platform dedicated to empowering people with autism to find jobs that harness their superpowers. Xceptional’s A$600k loan balance is reduced through cash repayments and by the number of people they place in jobs. I really love the model as it aligns purpose-driven founders with both their impact and financial targets.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
Hireup are a social enterprise worth following. Over the last six years, Hireup has built a high impact business that provides support to over 10,000 people with disability each year and employs (not contracts) a similar number of workers. It uses technology to solve a social challenge by putting power and control back in the hands of people with disability.
Just last week, Hireup secured A$40m in funding from SEEK Investments and I’m excited to see what they do next!
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
Our vision at Conscious Invest is to make impact investing, just investing.
I hope that as an industry we have proved that using investing as a force for good is considered just good investing. I envisage more mainstream investors integrating social and environmental considerations into their investment decision making processes, to the point that the term impact investing is no longer needed.