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Best practice, risk and sustainability in the post-COVID investment world

In this first part of our in-depth two part interview, GBI Magazine speaks to Richard Roberts, Director of Investor Relations at Oxford Capital about who, what and how they are investing following an unprecedented year.

How would you describe your investment strategy?

Our investment strategy is about supporting what we consider the best of British companies. We focus on businesses that are solving commercial, technical or scientific problems in innovative ways. We’re also looking to support credible, talented entrepreneurs to deliver their business ideas.

Do these companies fall into particular categories or any different types? How would you describe that?

One category is tech companies that are developing ground breaking technology. For example, Xihelm, a company in the portfolio produces a tomato-picking robot that’s looking to revolutionise the way that
growers across the world harvest stock like tomatoes. That’s first on their list but the idea is to allow this to be developed out to become a world leading company. We’re also looking for what we consider early growth – tech enabled companies that are disrupting existing markets. We’re looking for product/market fit stage where we are investing, asking if we can we actually help these companies exploit slow moving incumbents. An example of that would be Money Box, which advisers may have heard of, and many of their clients may actually be using it as an investment tool for their ISAs. It’s a company that allows investors to save money through their mobile devices and build assets.

We hear so much about ESG investing at the moment, what’s your philosophy or thought process on this?

ESG is something that we feel very strongly about within Oxford Capital. When it comes to choosing and investing in companies, we are looking to back those that have the potential to have a positive impact on the environment and society as a whole. We believe this is part of our role as a VC investor especially when it comes to ESG within small companies. Often the thought of ESG is with regard to much larger companies, or seen as something to do when a company gets to a much bigger stage. But actually, if we can influence how the smaller companies develop best practice in creating their policies we can help to shape them to become responsible companies. In turn we find that by adopting these ESG policies they have the potential to achieve much stronger levels of growth.

Tell us about the companies you’ve got within your existing portfolio, what are the sectors they are involved in?

The sectors cover a wide range as we’re trying to build a diverse portfolio for investors. They include artificial intelligence and machine learning. We also have a number of investments in digital health, Fintech and Insurtech which form a large part of our portfolio. We also look at the e-commerce world, the future of work and the future of mobility.

From an investment point of view, what are your specific goals and objectives?

We aim to help investors build a portfolio of alternative assets to sit alongside their core investment portfolio. We’re looking to build a portfolio of approximately 8 to 12 different companies that cover a variety of stages, geographies and sectors and really allow investors to access high potential companies at early stages in their growth.

Could you tell us more about the sectors you specialise in and why these are important?

We look to specialise where we think there is the highest growth potential. When you look at what’s happening in the market at the moment and ahead to a post-Covid world, the incumbents within retail, within the workplace there’s going to be huge amount of disruption. We’re looking to back companies that are ready to exploit the opportunities that result from this and to become the FTSE 100 companies of the future. We’re also looking at different themes. These include the future of mobility, future of retail, the future of work and how artificial intelligence and machine learning really enhance some of those opportunities and allow for explosive growth in early stage companies.

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