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Social investment at the Bank Workers Charity

Starting from zero

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.
Most of our 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 furthering our charitable aims - the relief of sickness and poverty, and the advancement of health.

Most 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. 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. We've been able to achieve a financial return at the same time as directly furthering our aims and increasing our overall social impact.

Establishing as an investor

We now have £3 million in funds available for social investment, of which nearly £2 million is committed at November 2019. We collaborate with the other main social investing organisations, often co-investing and sharing the costs of due diligence investigation and legal documentation. Because of our provenance in the financial services industry, and despite our relatively small size, we often take a more adventurous investment stance than other investors.

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.

Our 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, 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

At the end of 2019 we had made eleven investments or commitments totalling nearly £2 million. Of this, 40% is in direct investments, whether equity or loan, and 60% is 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.
  • 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 & social wellbeing of local communities.
  • Thrive Therapeutic Software

    Thrive empowers 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 made a further equity investment in 2016.
  • EnteroBiotix

    EnteroBiotix is a Scottish biotechnology company focussed 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 and 2019.

  • Bristol Credit Union

    BCU is a community credit union serving Bristol, Bath and surrounding areas. We made a long-term loan in 2019 to BCU 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

    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.

Managed funds

We have also invested in managed funds which have been set up to address many 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.
  • Bridges Social Outcomes Fund II

    We invested in BSOF II in 2019. 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 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. 
  • Big Issue Invest Outcomes Investment Fund

    We also made a commitment in 2019 to the Outcomes Investment Fund managed by Big Issue Invest.
  • 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.