Role & Organisation: 

Michael Lynch is Managing Director at Social Infrastructure Investment Partners (Synergis Fund)
What was your first job? 

I worked in retail at while I was at school and uni. My first job was in the CBA graduate program. For the next 20 odd years after that I had a varied career in banking in Australia and overseas.

I mostly enjoyed that career but ultimately was keen to do something with more purpose which eventually led me to Social Ventures Australia, and now SIIP which SVA formed with Federation Asset Management in 2019 to manage the Synergis Fund, a fund focussed on investing in Specialist Disability Accommodation.

When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?

A few years before I joined SVA I became aware of the work that they were doing in impact investing, initially I wasn’t thinking I would one day join that team

The opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to something with more purpose was very appealing to me but for most of my working life those opportunities were very hard to find. Once inside SVA, I was really inspired by the incredibly talented people across the organisation that clearly worked for purpose not financial outcomes.

I think its fantastic today that talented people wishing to find more purpose in their working lives have a genuine opportunity to do so.

When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?

Probably when I finished school and decided to study Commerce. I really liked enjoyed learning about and analysing different business and markets.  

What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?

I think for our team, the next stage of development will be how we can take the lessons and knowledge we have developed in SDA and see how similar structures could be used to serve other cohorts. There is clearly a lot happening in the social and affordable housing space and having a government placing emphasis on housing is a real positive.

It will be interesting to see how this develops but also how models can evolve to address areas like aged care and shared living.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?

While not a new transaction, I would say the Aspire Social Impact Bond which had an external evaluation completed recently. Aspire is a homelessness intervention involving more intensive case management for a longer duration than most programs which respond to homelessness. Aspire is also the first homelessness intervention in Australia to be financed by private investors through a SIB.

The evaluation by the Centre for Social Impact at Flinders University & The University of Western Australia highlighted three fundamental factors underly the success of models like Aspire; access to housing, length of support and intensity of support.

I would encourage anyone interested to read the article on housing first model by Patrick Bollen on the SVA website.

 Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on

I’m not sure I can identify one specific opportunity but as above I think the developments in housing models over the next few years will be interesting and how they can attract scale capital into solving Australia’s acute housing and care problems for a number of different cohorts.

What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?

I actually hope that the term is not widely used as I believe it’s a label that can constrain thinking and the opportunity.

All investing has some impact so for institutions to view it as an “asset class” or a “bucket” from where allocations are made is restrictive. What I think is important is that investments provide appropriate returns for the risk taken but for those returns also to include measurable outcomes.

It is encouraging to see disruptors coming into financial markets that are conscious of outcomes and the demands of the investors, including the generation now coming into the workforce. Underlying consumer demands on their super funds or other mangers hopefully will continue to drive the maturity of investing for impact over the next five to ten years.

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