GlenQ on the important growth in social impact investing
At first glance, the world may seem an increasingly cynical, self-centred place. Too many people crowding their ‘bucket lists’ with personal health, wealth and fulfilment ambitions. Gimme, gimme, gimme – no longer just a kitsch seventies’ ABBA song it would seem.
Yet first glances are often deceptive. Not too far below the surface sheen of me, me, me, there flows a quieter, calmer force. One that’s much more about other people – what can I do to make your life better?
Philanthropy, in all its subtle shades, represents a persistent and growing force for good across the world.
Being fair, concern for the wellbeing of others is hardly a new thing. Compassion has flowed from those in the money towards those scraping a living since…well, since those in the money first started piling it up.
Most – though not all – gave their pile away quietly. Recognition and public acclaim are not usually motivating factors. Despite this, some great social benefactors shine out from the past like beacons of virtue.
Legacy – the chance to place a lasting mark on the world – still surely interests many modern-day philanthropists. There are others, however, seeking a more immediate impact on their surrounding communities. In this case, social impact investing is a perfect path to fulfilment.
‘We are seeing more and more interest in social impact investing,’ says Paul Glennon, Principal at Jersey-based trust company GlenQ. ‘Especially among clients in countries where there’s a prominent demand for investment in public and community infrastructure and services. People are looking beyond the profit motive. They also want to know their money is making a real difference to the lives of fellow citizens too.’
The principles underpinning social impact investing are hardly new – it’s that old philanthropic desire bent on giving something back to others. But the name and approach are firmly rooted within the 21st century.
It’s a straightforward premise. If you are going to invest, choose to back initiatives that contribute measurably – either directly or indirectly – towards improving the social or economic wellbeing of disadvantaged communities. Do so for straight philanthropic reasons, if you expect nothing in return. Or look to make money, which is just as acceptable, providing you have the peace of mind assurance from helping others as a direct consequence.
‘Some clients access structured public social impact investment funds,’ Paul continues, ‘while others choose to invest directly in private social impact projects. Taking Nigeria as an example, we have been involved in enabling several vital public infrastructure developments, delivering projects from sanitation works to transport hubs. Our role is bringing developers and investors together and connecting them to specialist Jersey-based finance companies needed to create appropriate fund vehicles. The reward is seeing what a difference such projects can make to ordinary people’s lives.’
For a massively populous city such as Nigeria’s capital Lagos, investment in public infrastructure is not a choice but necessity to lift the lives of all its 21 million people. The will may exist for this, but the means – in the form of investment capital – is often lacking. While it can never be the whole answer, social impact investing forms an increasingly important part of the solution.
‘From experience, we know the entrepreneurial and generous spirit flowing through many Nigerians,’ concludes Paul. ‘The desire is there to improve their lives, those of their families and the wider community. We’ve seen how creating investment in major social projects has a trickledown effect. Big improvements in transport infrastructure directly enables the trading prospects of small businesses. And behind those improvements, both big and small, there’s an increasing level of social impact investing. What’s great for GlenQ is that this trend is one we are very much able to help enable.’