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Social investment trailblazers

How Triodos is leading the pack on access to impact investment

How Triodos is leading the pack on access to impact investment

Last month, Triodos Bank  was named a ‘social investment trailblazer’ by the Cabinet Office when it was awarded the Investment Access Award at the inaugural Social Investment Awards.  Here Whitni Thomas explains what set Triodos apart from the pack.

Up until recently most social investors were semi-institutional investors or high net worth individuals. Charitable trusts and foundations, social investment funds and angel investors made the majority of social investments.

This was because most social investment opportunities were perceived to be quite high risk or too complex for an ordinary investor.

“As a bank with a retail customer base of well over 30,000 in the UK, we are uniquely placed in having access to a retail audience which we can promote social investment opportunities to.”

Whitni Thomas, Investor Relations Manager, Triodos Bank

We have worked over the years to enable our clients to access the capital they need and also to help to create a more inclusive, democratic social investment market.

From the first Golden Lane Housing bond in 2003, to the Cafédirect share issue in 2004 and Ethical Property Company share issues in 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2010, we have tried to broaden the access to social investment opportunities where appropriate for ordinary investors with minimum investment amounts as low as £100.

Social Investment Awards Martin Lewis Whitni Thomas and Diana Gerry

Social Investment Awards host Martin Lewis presenting Triodos Bank’s Whitni Thomas and Diana Gerry with the Investor Access Award

As a bank with a retail customer base of well over 30,000 in the UK, we are uniquely placed in having access to a retail audience which we can promote social investment opportunities to.

We have managed to increase every year the percentage of capital that we raise from retail investors: in 2011, 27% of the capital we raised came from individual investors, in 2012 this had risen to 42% and in 2013, the majority of the capital we raised (57%) came from ordinary investors.

“Where possible we have set accessible minimum investment amounts and have structured the bonds in a very straightforward and easy to understand way.”

Whitni Thomas, Investor Relations Manager, Triodos Bank

Much of this increase in retail social investment has been through bringing charity and social enterprise bonds to market with issues by Bristol Together, Golden Lane Housing, Midlands Together and Greenwich Leisure. Where possible we have set accessible minimum investment amounts and have structured the bonds in a very straightforward and easy to understand way.

We have also helped to increase the appeal of social investment pioneering the use of Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) on the Bristol Together and Midlands Together capital raises and by making  complex instruments, such as social impact bonds (SIBs) accessible to individual investors.

“We believe it is pivotal to engage individual investors in the social investment market as the market will stagnate if is relies only on institutional investors.”

Whitni Thomas, Investor Relations Manager, Triodos Bank

We believe it is pivotal to engage individual investors in the social investment market as the market will stagnate if is relies only on institutional investors.

We have found time and time again that it is individuals who “get” the social impact of our clients most readily and that if we can develop social investment products that are suitable for them with tangible credible social impact, they will invest.

Whitni Thomas is Investor Relations Manager at Triodos Bank

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