Big Society Capital likely to invest up to £50m in first year

By David Ainsworth, Third Sector Online, 17 April 2012

Nick O'Donohoe

Nick O'Donohoe

Nick O'Donohoe, chief executive of BSC, says he hopes the funding will attract new investors to the social sector

Big Society Capital expects to make between 12 and 15 investments totalling between £40m and £50m in its first year, according to Nick O'Donohoe, its chief executive.

Big Society Capital, which was officially launched at the start of the month, already has £60m available to spend and is expected to have assets of £600m over its first four years, including £400m from dormant bank accounts and £200m from high-street banks. It will make investments in retail social finance funds and pilot social finance projects. It will be a wholesale investor and will not lend money directly to front-line social enterprises.

O’Donohoe told Third Sector that the majority of investments in the first year would be in new social finance funds. In most cases, BSC will be the 'cornerstone' investor – the first organisation to invest capital in the hope that this will attract cash from other sources.

"I’d be really disappointed if we couldn’t make 12 to 15 investments worth £40m to £50m in the first year," he said.

He said he hoped the organisation would help existing funds to broaden their offerings, but also to attract a whole new group of financial professionals with an interest in working in the social sector.

"There are serious people who are interested in this sector," he said. O’Donohoe said a lot of them would be interested in launching funds along the lines of Bridges and Big Issue Invest, which make investments in social enterprises.

He said his organisation would approach people with its own ideas, rather than waiting for applications.

"The best opportunities come from being proactive, not reactive," he said. "We want to look at the areas of need."

Five small-scale investments have already been made through an interim fund, the Big Society Investment Fund, set up with money from dormant bank accounts and run by the Big Lottery Fund. Several proposals, submitted informally before BSC officially started up, are currently going through a due-diligence process.

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