Adventure Capital Fund set to bid for social investment wholesale bank

Social lender aims to become billion-pound-plus third sector investor

The Adventure Capital Fund has confirmed that it will bid to run the proposed social investment wholesale bank.

The ACF signalled its intention this week by forming a new company called Social Investment Business, which will become the umbrella brand for all ACF and Futurebuilders England funds.

The value of the various funds administered by the ACF total £409.5m. Jonathan Lewis, its chief executive, told Third Sector the new parent organisation aimed to become a billion pound-plus voluntary sector investor.

He said the new brand would demonstrate that the ACF and Futurebuilders were more than a collection of funds and that they intended to be long-term players in the social investment market.

The Government is consulting until October on how to establish a social investment wholesale bank, funded partly by unclaimed assets in dormant bank accounts. Lewis said his organisation would "throw its hat into the ring" to bid to run the bank if, as expected, one is set up.

Charity Bank and Triodos Bank have questioned the sustainability of the ACF and warned that its rapid growth could displace established and effective social lenders.

Lewis said: "The accusations don't have an empirical basis. We are not trying to take over; we are trying to fundamentally change the sector, and to do that you have to be big."

Social Investment Business will oversee the £215m Futurebuilders England fund, the Department of Health's £100m Social Enterprise Investment Fund, the Communities and Local Government department's £70m Communitybuilders fund, the original £15m Adventure Capital Fund and the Office of the Third Sector's £9.5m Modernisation Fund.

ALSO ...

A third sector bidding consortium has applied for £31.8m from the Department for Work and Pensions' Future Jobs Fund.

Third Sector Consortia Management, which was officially established as a social enterprise last week, has 225 members.

It is being organised by Ian Charlesworth, enterprise director at investment fund Futurebuilders England, in response to concerns that individual voluntary organisations are too small to win large government contracts.

About half a dozen lead consortium partners will bid for contracts in the education and training, welfare-to-work and health and social care sectors.

Besides applying to the Future Jobs Fund, set up to create 150,000 jobs, the consortium is completing a pre-qualifying questionnaire for phase two of the DWP's Flexible New Deal programme, established to help long-term unemployed people into work.

"The sector is alive to pressure from commissioners to organise itself in a different way," said Charlesworth. "Now it is looking for positive action from commissioners."

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