Responsible Funds, October 23: United Nations launches social impact fund

The round-up of the latest responsible funds news

The United Nations has launched a social impact fund that it describes as an “intermediary growth capital social impact venture fund”. The United Nations Social Impact Fund (UNSIF) plans to invest up to $5m in companies using a combination of grant, debt and equity and it envisions a portfolio level of investment at $60m in two years. Link

John Oliphant’s GAIA Infrastructure Capital is set to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange next month, aiming to raise R500m (€33m), according to media reports. Oliphant is the former Principal Executive Officer at South Africa’s giant Government Employees Pension Fund and GAIA has already concluded transactions to the value of R1.35bn, including one wind farm and three solar farms.

Boutique firm Mayfair Capital’s flagship Property Income Trust for Charities (PITCH) has completed £16m of acquisitions – taking its investment portfolio to £427m. James Thornton, Chief Executive of Mayfair Capital and Fund Director of PITCH, said: “PITCH is continuing to see positive inflows of money in response to its outperformance and attractive yield.”

Investing for Catholics, a division of Irvine, California-based wealth management firm Index Fund Advisors has launched two new strategies: IFC Target Date and Risk-Based Collective Funds. IFC launched them at the recent annual Catholic Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference (DFMC) last month in Atlanta, fresh on the heels of Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States. The new funds are scheduled to go live on January 1 2016, and will be accessible to employees of Catholic organizations through their retirement platforms. Reporting for quarterly holdings and monthly performance returns will be available through Morningstar.

A group of investors and entrepreneurs in the US has launched a new food and agriculture fund called Seed 2 Growth Ventures (S2G Ventures). In a statement, the fund’s backers said the goal was to “catalyse innovation to meet growing consumer demand for healthy, sustainable and local food.” S2G Ventures starts with $125m (€119m) in seed money. Among its first investments are an organic dairy firm; a food-processing firm that seeks to improve the taste of coffee, grains, cacao; and a firm specializing in plant protein as a substitute for meat.

US-based Eqis Capital Management has launched a new fund that specifically invests in companies run by women. According to Financial Advisor magazine, the fund, called ‘Women CEO Focus’ was created after Eqis discovered that stocks from companies that have women as CEOs tended to outperform their benchmarks. “What we found is that these firms tended to be more profitable and to outpace the S&P 500 (benchmark),” Eqis told the magazine. The fund is to be co-managed by Kenneth Kim, Chief Financial Strategist at Eqis and William Nelson, its Chief Investment Officer. To achieve diversification, the fund will invest in an array of sectors, including energy, utilities, food and beverage as well as technology and services, Financial Advisor said.A fund created by the UK’s GO Investment Partners and Tokio Marine Asset Management (TMAM) has seen its assets increase more than seven times since its launch three and a half years ago. GO said its TMAM-GO Engagement Fund had JPY51bn (€379m) in assets at the end of September compared with JPY6bn when the fund launched in March 2012. GO attributed the increase to the fund’s positive performance. GO also said that in the first nine months of 2015, the fund won another pension client. As a result, Japanese institutions account for 45% of the fund’s assets.

Castlefield, the UK-based responsible investment firm, has announced its five “winners” and five “spinners” among responsible investment funds. In the winners category are the WHEB Sustainability Fund (for engagement); Alliance Trust Investments (for performance); Premier ConBrio B.E.S.T. Income Fund (no fossil fuels); Quilter Cheviot Climate Assets Fund (low carbon); and Impax Environmental Markets Investment Trust (focus on renewables). Castefield’s five spinners include Aberdeen Ethical World Fund (for shale oil); Legal & General Ethical – Trust (no engagement); Prudential Socially Responsible fund (invested in Shell and Rio Tinto); Sovereign Ethical Fund (7% in oil in gas); and the Virgin Climate Change Fund (invested in Shell). Castlefield relied on research provided by EIRIS to determine its winners and spinners.

Ethical bank Triodos says it is underwriting a £2m (€2.7m) social impact bond (SIB) the proceeds of which will be used to finance housing in the UK for people with learning disabilities. Issuer of the SIB is Thera Trust, a charity that supports around 1,800 people. Thera’s support has come in the form of finding suitable homes, assisted living and help with integrating into society. Thera’s five-year bond pays annual interest of 5.5%, and the minimum investment is £1,000. Triodos said, however, that the payment of interest and the return of capital was not guaranteed, as this depended on the success of Thera’s business model.

The G7 member-states have created a €7m fund to improve the working conditions in poorer producing countries. In a statement, the German government said the “Vision Zero Fund” would help finance national accident insurance schemes, training for fire prevention inspectors and occupational safety. Germany is providing €3m to the fund, the US €1m and the European Union the remaining €3m. The impetus for the fund is the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013. In the event, more than 1,100 people died when a textile factory in Bangladesh supplying several western brands collapsed. Link

A new fund has launched in the UK to support the development of treatments for dementia. The Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) has been seeded with $100m (€89m) in capital from several investors, including the UK Government’s Department of Health, the NGO Alzheimer’s Research UK and drug companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer. The goal is to “deliver new drug approaches for dementia by 2025 to diagnose and intervene early to modify the course of disease.” Manager of the DDV is SV Life Sciences, a venture capital firm. Announcement