What was your first job?
My first professional job was as a graduate at UBS in the Debt Capital Markets team in Sydney. I was fortunate to be one of 6 graduates hired that year and within 12 months the tech crash occurred, and I felt even luckier to keep my job.
UBS was a fantastic place to learn about many areas of finance including debt, equities, commodities and early carbon markets. I benefited from their global programs and job mobility moving from DCM to investing for the bank and then to London to trade a $1bn commodities book. This provided me a deep understanding of global markets, investors, and volatility.
UBS was quite a step change from my first paid job wrapping chocolates for Christmas presents at the Chocolate Box in Melbourne. I was envisaging Willy Wonka and rivers of chocolate but there was no sampling and it was a summer spent in a cold warehouse (we wore beanies and gloves).
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
I loved mathematics in primary school, took all the maths in secondary school and this led to a Science degree majoring in mathematics alongside a Commerce degree majoring in Finance. I worked for a maths professor at Melbourne University on US defence force research and while challenging and interesting it confirmed I was not cut out for academia.
Looking for other ways to keep using maths, I found a job with the biggest hirer of maths graduates – investment banking. I loved the crossover of statistics, particularly stochastic modelling and finance, and continue to love using my maths and problem solving skills in finance and business.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
I worked on early carbon projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in South East Asia (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand) and we registered all our projects with the Gold Standard. This wasn’t framed as “impact” investing but was viewed as ensuring more equitable outcomes creating value for local people and ecosystems while delivering carbon reductions and ultimately credits to European emitters.
Living and working in SE Asia provided a view into aid and development funding in addition to our work which was commercial projects where carbon credits provided the returns to make the project stack up. I saw a lot of money spent on aid projects where there was no ongoing measurement of impact which differed hugely to the Gold Standard’s ongoing requirement to demonstrate and verify impact.
I then worked on financing the first programmatic CDM project in Mexico where we gave away 23 million CFLs to low-income households removing the need for a new coal fired power station and funded by the Mexican government and carbon credits. That was impact at scale.
Through these experiences, I realised the power of finance and markets that when harnessed can deliver more than just monetary returns. This concept resonated and I become passionate in the belief that finance can provide impact as well as financial returns.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
We launched the Kilara Growth Fund, Australia’s first small to mid-cap growth equity climate fund last year. I am excited about working with our portfolio companies to accelerate and scale their climate impact. Our commitment to impact is real and measurable – we intend to benchmark, measure and report on our impact. As a manager, we have taken this an important step further and our returns are linked to the impact targets for our portfolio companies. This way investors can be confident in the impact of their investment. Our Chief Impact Officer, Dr Jodi York works with all our portfolio companies to put in place impact frameworks with measurable targets which we will report on. Look out for KGF’s first Impact Report which will demonstrate our impact reporting.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
Not a deal that is done yet but I am fascinated by MCB’s bid for AGL. When we talk about impact, the shifting of 4.5 million people to renewable energy and accelerating the closure of coal fired power stations would transform the electricity retailing landscape. The major incumbents have slowed the transition to clean energy for long enough and shifting 4.5m customers is a large challenge (I was also a founder of DC Power Co where we set up to aggregate solar households and create a mass shift to renewable energy). I love the idea of unplugging the coal and replacing with renewables providing customers with clean power. That would have enormous impact!
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
As an energy nerd and strong believer that we need to electrify fast, requiring both a step change and an audacious mindset, I always have an eye on Google. They are leading the charge on reducing their carbon footprint by setting unreasonable targets and then working out how to achieve them. Many companies in Australia are moving to 100% renewable power whereas Google has achieved this every year since 2016. Google has moved to trying to achieve 24/7 renewable energy (matching usage to renewable production) by 2030 which is the next critical problem to solve. I love how they use ambitious targets that no one has achieved (and many say can’t be achieved) and then work creatively to solve them. This early work provides solutions for many other companies to follow.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
I hope that impact investing becomes embedded in deal/opportunity assessment in the same way that we assess financials: commercial returns, strength of team, market opportunity etc. Ultimately, we need to for impact to become a core part of investment decision making and not an add on or nice to have. This is what do you at the Kilara Growth Fund – commercial returns and deep impact.
For me, impact investing is acknowledging and valuing the other economic, environmental, and social impacts that are currently been ignored, not valued or viewed as an externality to investing. My view is that this acknowledging or attributing value to impact will be driven by reporting and disclosure requirements. There is a long way to go but let’s start measuring impact and reporting on outcomes.
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