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A Day In the Life: Social Impact Investment Associate

Written by: Rebecca McCartney
Published on: Sep 14, 2018

"Impact investing is still a growing market and it’s exciting to be exploring and considering new investment opportunities that support that market growth and ultimately make a positive social impact."

What is your current role and what are your main responsibilities?

I am an Investment Associate at Big Society Capital – my responsibilities are what you’d expect from an investment professional but with a social impact twist. Firstly, I explore the role of impact investing to address employment and community related issues to originate new deals. Secondly, I lead investments through due diligence to completion, taking into account both financial and social impact considerations. Finally, I manage a number of investments in Big Society Capital’s portfolio ranging from funds targeting social innovations to lenders providing small loans to charities, actively working with the managers to maximise social impact and generate a financial return. 

What do you most enjoy about this role?

There is unfortunately no shortage of social issues that need tackling, which makes my job quite varied. I enjoy engaging with these challenging issues and thinking creatively about the routes to how investment can help shift the dial. Impact investing is still a growing market and it’s exciting to be exploring and considering new investment opportunities that support the market growth and ultimately make a positive social impact. 

What are the most important skills for success in this role?

Impact investing requires a diverse skills set which are all underpinned by a social motivation. Traditional transaction and portfolio management skills are important but must be matched by an ability to grasp social issues, and analyse and measure the causation and data of social interventions. Working in partnership is particularly important in a growing market, as is flexibility and creativity to develop or assess new solutions that tackle social challenges. 

How did you get to this position and what would you advise other CFA Charterholders who would like to do a similar role?

Impact investment professionals come from diverse backgrounds, many from traditional investment, but also, like myself, from the public and charity sectors. An impact investor will look for people with investment skills but often the key differentiator is how someone demonstrates their social passion and acumen. This can be tough to do but start by engaging with a social issue you care about and then finding opportunities to engage with social issues such as mentoring a social enterprise or helping out at your local charity. 

How has the role changed over the past five years? 

Impact investing has grown rapidly in the past five years to the point that it has become a viable profession in which to pursue a career. Over this period there has been a shift to more proactively explore how diverse financial mechanisms can help address social issues. And while there is increased specialisation, the role still often requires broad knowledge of investment and social issues.

How do you see your role changing in the next ten years?

There will likely be more impact investing roles in a broader range of investment organisations but with increased specialism by social issue and/or asset class. Based on current trends, there will be a convergence with traditional investing, whether in practice, product or investees, given there’s an upward trajectory of mission-driven businesses. The evidence base will be more robust to support professionals to innovate and test hypotheses around the use of impact investing to drive solutions to social issues.