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Social investment at the Bank Workers Charity

Starting from zero

Most of BWC's income comes from investments managed for us to produce the best total financial return within an acceptable level of risk. The money generated is spent on our charitable activities - our objectives are the relief of sickness and poverty, and the advancement of health.

Many funding organisations’ portfolios are managed in this way, but it means that our funds could be invested in organisations with activities far removed from our objectives.   

BWC has been interested in social investment since the Charity Commission updated its guidance on Charities and Investment Matters in 2011 (known as CC14). For the first time this allowed charities to invest their funds to achieve a social impact as well as a financial return - the definition of social investment - rather than for financial return alone. 

In 2013 we set aside £1 million to be used specifically for social investment. This complements the services that we provide directly to our beneficiaries through our staffed helpline. In this way we are able to achieve a financial return at the same time as directly furthering our aims and increasing our overall social impact.

An established investor

We now have £3 million in funds available for social investment, of which £2.5 million was invested or committed at December 2021. We collaborate with other social investing organisations, often co-investing and sharing the costs of due diligence investigation and legal documentation.

Shaping the market

We also contribute to the development of the social investment market by serving on the Steering Committee of the Social Impact Investors Group, which supports Foundations, Trusts and other organisations that are interested in social impact investing by sharing knowledge and experience.

BWC's approach to social investment

  • Our investment policy

    We've evolved the following approach to enable us to achieve a balance between risk and return, and between financial return and social impact. Typically our investments are:

    • either loan or equity
    • initially between £50k and £125k
    • operating in the health, wellbeing or poverty sectors
    • established organisations - we do not have the resources to invest in start-ups.
  • Our investment criteria

    If you're looking for funding for your social enterprise, please make sure that you can demonstrate the following before contacting us to see if we can help. Your enterprise should:

    • be based and operate mainly in the UK
    • have social as well as financial aims
    • have social impact which is clearly articulated, and related to BWC objectives
    • be constituted in one of the social forms of governance, or a private company with a social purpose
    • have a coherent and credible business plan.
  • Contact us

    In the first instance, please email [email protected]. We'll get back to you as soon as we can. Even if we can't help you ourselves, we're established in the social investment sphere, and may be able to direct you to organisations that can.

Our current social investment portfolio

By December 2021 we had made investments or commitments totalling over £2.5 million into twelve different funds or organisations. Of this, 46% was in direct investments, whether equity or loan, and 56% was invested via managed funds.

Direct Investments

Our direct investments have taken the form of social bond, loan, convertible loan, and equity. They cover the areas of wellbeing, poverty, mental and physical health.
  • Charity Bank

    Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank for charities, social enterprises and people who want to make the world a better place. It uses its savers’ money to provide much needed loans to UK organisations working to drive positive social change – bringing benefits for people, communities and the environment. 

    Charity Bank is owned by social purpose organisations and aims to use its expertise, commitment and flexible approach to lending to help charities and social enterprises get the support and funding they need.

    We made an equity investment in Charity Bank in 2020.
  • EnteroBiotix

    EnteroBiotix is a Scottish biotechnology company focused on using the body’s own microorganisms to prevent and treat debilitating intestinal infections and diseases. This is both quicker and more cost-effective than current treatments. We made an initial equity investment in 2017, and further investments in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

  • Great Western Credit Union

    Great Western Credit Union (GWCU) is a community credit union serving the Bristol, Bath and surrounding areas. We made a long-term loan in 2019 to GWCU to help upgrade its IT systems and achieve greater efficiency and economies of scale as it grows its membership base and becomes increasingly sustainable.
  • Library of Things

    Library of Things (LoT) provides a range of products for DIY, cleaning, gardening and leisure, all available to borrow at an affordable price in the local community. We made an equity investment in LoT in 2019, and in 2021.
  • Mind for You

    Mind for You (MfY) provides specialist holidays for people living with dementia and their carers. People living with dementia and their families reach a point where it is no longer possible to enjoy standard leisure activities and holidays.

    The unique, small-group holidays are in dementia-friendly holiday properties throughout the UK. Experienced staff personalise the holiday and provide support for people living with dementia and their family carer  in the words of one guest: 'Like a family holiday, but stress free.'

  • Thrive Therapeutic Software

    Thrive creates apps that empower people to take control of their mental wellbeing and provides them with ready access to effective prevention, early detection and the right intervention according to their needs at the lowest possible cost. We invested in Thrive in 2015 in the form of a loan which converted to equity in 2016, and also made a further equity investment in 2016.

Managed funds

We have also invested in managed funds which have been set up to address social issues such as poverty, social care and physical wellbeing.
  • Social Enterprise Investment Fund II

    SEIF II is a fund managed by Big Issue Invest. Its mission is to tackle poverty and create opportunity by financing the growth of sustainable social enterprises. We invested in 2015, and again in 2017.
  • Bridges Evergreen Capital Fund

    Evergreen is a fund managed by Bridges Ventures. It aims to provide ‘patient’ capital for developing social enterprises, whether becoming social, moving into employee-ownership, spinning out of the public sector or simply scaling up. Examples of investments made include the provision of quality care for the elderly and for looked-after children. We invested at launch in 2016 and again in 2018 and 2021.
  • Bridges Social Outcomes Fund II

    First introduced in 2010, Social Impact Bonds – now called Social Outcomes Contracts – are a form of outcome-based contract where social investment is used to finance delivery and take the risk of outcome success. The commissioner - usually a Local Authority - only pays for the intervention if it has been successful; investors provide upfront working capital for services and are only repaid if outcomes are achieved. The use of these contracts has increased markedly over the last couple of years, and BSOF II is a fund invested in these contracts covering many social service areas. We invested in BSOF II in 2019.
  • Fair By Design Fund

    FBD is a fund aiming to tackle the ‘Poverty Premium’. People in poverty or on low incomes often pay more for the same products or services than people who are better off financially. This is called the Poverty Premium – the extra cost of being poor. FBD supports innovative market solutions by investing debt and equity into early and later stage ventures. We invested in this fund in 2018.
  • British Gymnastics Facilities Investment Fund

    BGFIF is a loan fund set up by British Gymnastics (the industry body) and Sport England (government body) to make loans to local gymnastics clubs for them to improve their facilities or create dedicated ones. Gymnastics provides structured development of physical skills from a very early age, leading to positive activity habits for life which help to combat childhood obesity and improve mental health. Participation in gymnastics is popular but limited by the lack of suitable facilities. We made a commitment to BGFIF in 2019.

Completed investments

  • Greenwich Leisure

    Greenwich Leisure (GLL) manage nearly 400 community sports, leisure and library facilities across the UK under its Better brand. GLL’s purpose is to improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of local communities. BWC has been an investor in GLL’s Corporate Social Bond since 2013, when it sought to raise funds to take over and manage the London Olympics 2012 facilities. The five-year bond was rolled over in 2018m and repaid in 2021.

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