New-look Futurebuilders sets out on investment roadshow

The Adventure Capital Fund, which recently won the tender to run the Government's £215m Futurebuilders funds, has started a drive to find new candidates for investment by holding roadshows and having dinners with members of voluntary sector chief executives body Acevo.

"A big change in emphasis will be making Futurebuilders a very outward-facing organisation," said Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of the fund and the new head of Futurebuilders.

"We want to try to meet people in the market and work out what they want from the fund."

The ACF took up the reins last week after dislodging the previous incumbent, Futurebuilders England - the consortium set up five years ago by sector groups including Charity Bank, Unity Trust Bank and the NCVO.

The roadshow, Taking Futurebuilders Forward, is touring Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle this week before heading to the south west. The dinner meetings began last week, enabling Lewis and Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo and chair of Futurebuilders, to meet leaders from the sector.

"We're running chief executive dinners with Acevo not to be exclusive, but because we want to get on with it, and it's easier to get them together if it's run with Acevo," said Lewis. "We will form partnerships with anyone who will help us to make the fund a success."

He strongly denied the claim by Richard Gutch, the outgoing chief executive of Futurebuilders England, that new criteria will make it harder for smaller organisations to secure investment. One sector expert, who asked not to be named, said this week the new approach was likely to mean "quantity rather than depth".

The ACF is also working with Ernst & Young, which contributed to the ACF bid free of charge after its own tender was unsuccessful. The consultancy is contracted to provide Futurebuilders' change management services, and is also doing research for it on market development.

Neither contract went out to tender because the firm was one of the Government's 'preferred suppliers', said Lewis.

"Ernst & Young worked with us extensively through the bid," he said. "They were extremely helpful and they are already working with us on Futurebuilders."

Futurebuilders plans

- Enter into partnership with a high-street bank (currently unnamed) that will market Futurebuilders to charities requesting loans too risky for the bank to take on

- Establish a new 'market development' department to drive up the number and quality of applications

- Achieve a 'dramatic increase' in the ratio of applications made to loans given, also known as the conversion rate

- Aim to give all applicants a definite 'no' or a provisional 'yes' within a week, and give the latter a definite commitment within six weeks

- Prevent groups wasting time on unsuccessful applications by encouraging them to speak to investment officers about whether their schemes are eligible

- Discourage applications from organisations that do not intend to take a Futurebuilders loan, but undergo the fund's vetting procedure to receive a stamp of approval that might make them more attractive to other funders

- Simplify online applications

- Establish a separate fund to provide money for the costs of tendering.

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