IFA Magazine talks to Dr. Reuben Wilcock, Blackfinch Ventures, to find out more about how the company operates given its laudable aims to deliver successful outcomes for EIS investors, businesses and the economy, whilst maintaining a keen focus on positive impact as an ESG investor. We also delve into broader territory to discover what he thinks might lie ahead for the sector in 2021 and beyond.
IFAM: For readers who might not be too familiar with the Blackfinch brand, could we begin by talking about the business and how you operate?
RW: As part of Blackfinch Group, Blackfinch Ventures aims for quality, simplicity and transparency in all that we do. Blackfinch was founded on evolutionary principles, inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Our values of ‘adapt’, ‘evolve’ and ‘thrive’ run through every aspect our work.
We care about successful outcomes for investors, businesses and the economy. This includes working in partnership with advisers, co-investing with clients as technology entrepreneurs and experts, and offering value-based products. The Group’s USP is also reflected in our commitment to a positive impact as an environmental, social and governance (ESG) investor.
IFAM: When it comes to investing, what sectors do you specialise in and why do you believe that these are important?
RW: We invest with a technology mandate. Our investments cover technology and technology-enabled firms operating across sectors. Firms’ offerings are based on ground-breaking new concepts which have the potential to change the way we live and work for the better.
As I mentioned earlier, ESG is core to our investment process, so we’re investing in firms that are aligned with our and our investors’ beliefs on ESG. These firms are offering products and services that can have a positive impact.
This includes at sector level but is also evident at economic level through the creation of jobs and growth. Firms are also making an impact at client level through serving other businesses. Ultimately, our investee firms are making a positive difference in the world and we’re proud to be part of that.
IFAM: 2020 has been tough for many businesses but has it been for you? What is your outlook for 2021?
RW: Blackfinch Ventures has continued to progress and expand. We have remained fully operational during the coronavirus pandemic and continue to support all our investee companies through the disruption. It has been great to see many firms innovating and growing. This includes those in the Blackfinch Ventures EIS Portfolios.
We also closed three new deals and made four follow-on investments in March 2020 while in lockdown. In May, we helped to launch the #ISOLATIONINTERN platform, partnering with investment firms and universities. This enables the acquisition of specialist talent by start-ups in line with social distancing: https://www.isolationintern.com.
We’re looking forward to seeing our investee firms’ further growth and success in 2021. Many that have successfully adapted to the pandemic are set to emerge stronger. Direct to consumer brands and the trend towards premiumisation are interesting areas right now, as are innovative FinTech solutions based on the Open Banking changes.
Blackfinch Group affirmed its commitment to ESG principles, including becoming a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment. With ESG core to how we work it was also the major theme in the Group’s recent rebrand. We have launched new websites for each of our businesses including Ventures, with increased online facilities for advisers, and revised and updated materials.
Throughout the year, the Group also launched new products and services. The Adaptations Partnership Programme, available through Blackfinch Asset Management, enables adviser firms to take advantage of all the Group has to offer. This includes expertise within Blackfinch Ventures. Blackfinch can provide support at every stage and for every aspect of an adviser’s business.
When lockdown began, the Group also introduced enhanced processes to provide further support advisers. These included help with completing applications by phone, payments by BACS and CHAPS, e-signatures on documents, editable online application forms and extended deadlines for key offerings. We have retained these processes as we continue to support advisers.
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