Role & Organisation:

Director at Conscious Investment Management 

What was your first job?

I spent a lot of time growing up at the restaurants and butchers my parents worked in.

Over time, I started helping out waiting tables and serving. I learnt a lot in those formative years about hard work, but also working as a team with the camaraderie of a kitchen or shop.

My first paid jobs weren’t until after high school where I worked as a barista and taught English. I brought a lot of the joy of working with a team and making work fun into those first jobs and still do!

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

I started my career in architecture, I had a desire to use design to solve problems. In those early years of study and working in the architectural field, it became clear that a lot of the problems that needed solving couldn’t be fixed by design itself. But we could work creatively to bring people and organisations together to make the numbers stack up (often with government support). 

Then finding my passion in housing – access and affordability – I was drawn to looking at how we can design and structure investment opportunities that are attractive to the broader market. 

When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?

I was working on a tender in 2015 that was seeking to deliver a housing solution for 330 people with disabilities to move out of institutional living and back into community. It was clear that a consortium of public and private companies was required with the leadership of not-for-profit (NFP) community housing providers.

Being part of a service delivery based organisation, we knew we were in with a slim chance, but we were able to demonstrate a strong team, and bring in financial partners who could see the social and financial value of the project. 

This was the start of my involvement in the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) sector, and really demonstrated how private capital can invest in a sector that is truly life changing, while being attractive financially.

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

The Conscious Investment Management (CIM) team has been making some great investments in SDA (including with Summer Housing where I was previously) and in tackling social and affordable housing gaps. 

I’m excited to be joining at this stage to increase our impact partnerships, explore areas of unmet supply and design solutions that will leverage our expertise in funding real assets. We like to think outside of the box and will be looking at doing something different. My personal goal is to drive CIM to become the leading investor in the delivery of accessible housing in Australia.

What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?

It was exciting to see Save the Children’s fund (alongside co-investors) invest in Ngutu College, a South Australian school that incorporates Aboriginal knowledge and learning into its curriculum. 

I’m keen to follow how this investment goes towards reimagining education and providing a child-centred approach to learning and cultural understanding; more significantly, seeing Save the Children, a NFP managing an impact investment fund, to expand their impact by supporting social enterprises and start-ups while generating a financial return.

Having recently been in an NFP, I love that the sector itself is becoming more commercial and innovative in finding new ways to achieve their mission.

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

Rather than single out a company, I’m going to point to one of the biggest challenges globally – housing affordability. COVID-19 has placed greater emphasis on the importance of safety and security of housing; at the same time, we’ve seen a deterioration in affordability across the world with significant impacts on supply-chains and workforce. The pandemic has exasperated an already stressed market, having had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable cohorts. 

Moreover, COVID-19 has changed our perceptions on liveability. People now want ventilation, access to outdoor areas, perhaps a home office to enable working from home. 

ESG is becoming a pivotal focus for developers and builders, and housing affordability needs to form part of this conversation. As new solutions are developed, housing providers will be looking for investors to scale innovative models, and impact investors will be positioned well to support this growth. 

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

With the growth and prominence of impact investing, I think in 5 years’ time, impact will be seen as part and parcel of investing.

I think the biggest challenge now is to really define what impact should look like, including how to delineate between different products, for example how different factors feed into anticipated risk and return profiles. 

And hopefully, we’ll see governments step into this space and show leadership in supporting impact investing to direct capital to where it is really needed.

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