Corporate partnerships: Beyond Business still a key Investec initiative

Investec has awarded almost £1.5m to the programme since 2008, helping to establish 67 social enterprises

It is nine years since the bank Investec formed a partnership with the Bromley by Bow Centre, a community centre in east London only a few miles away from the bank's London office.

During that time, the bank has supported a range of different programmes at the centre, but its most notable partnership has been its work on Beyond Business, which helps to incubate social enterprises. The programme seeks out entrepreneurs in the deprived boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham who want to create social impact businesses. After a competitive selection process, five or six applicants a year are each awarded seed funding of up to £17,000. They also receive business support from volunteers at Investec.

Investec has awarded almost £1.5m to the programme since 2008, which has helped to set up 67 new social enterprises. The organisations that have been funded now have a combined turnover of £5m a year and have helped to create 350 new jobs in east London, says Investec.

The impact the programme has had on the local community led to Investec being named Business of the Year at this year's Third Sector Business Charity Awards.

The programme has not been without its problems, though. Between 2008 and 2011, the scheme received money from a range of funders, but that began to disappear as austerity began to bite. Investec stepped in and became the sole funder in 2011. Since then, it has expanded the scale of Beyond Business and increased the survival rate of the enterprises that receive funding: 90 per cent of them now make it to year three of trading, compared with 43 per cent before 2011.

Susie Steyn, corporate social responsibility manager at Investec, says that Beyond Business remains a key programme for the bank. "In terms of spend, it's our biggest programme," she says. "But I'm always nervous that we're going to be able to keep it going. We've gone through a few leadership changes at Investec and each time we lose a senior ambassador for the programme. But we've managed to sustain the link-up through what could have been a few wobbles."

She believes the reason it has been so successful is that it provides a personalised service to the entrepreneurs. "It's not a factory churning out information and advice," says Steyn. "It's about relationships with those entrepreneurs and investing in the individuals and their passions."

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