Attending the GIIN Investor Forum 2022

Having had a career in investment banking in the 90’s and 00’s, I decided in 2012 to leave the banking world behind and pursue a career in international development. Making the decision to go back to college and study an MA in International Development at University College Dublin was not an easy one, but with the support of an incredibly understanding wife - I made the leap! Fast forward to 2022, and I am now in that happy spot where international development meets investment banking. Those years of having a ‘good job in the bank’, combined with my most recent experience in international development, has come full circle.

So, attending the GIIN Investor Forum in The Hague last week was, as always, a great chance to meet up with people and organisations at the leading edge of development finance, and in particular impact investing. It was a fantastic opportunity to engage with senior leaders from across the globe who now see impact investing as a solid, and very much needed part of the wider development finance world!Impact Investor conference picture of stage with panel

If anything, it was yet another wake-up call (if we hadn’t enough already), as to the detrimental affect all our actions have, and are having, on the world around us. We could easily give up and throw the towel in as we edge closer and past the tipping point of no return, but the positivity and enthusiasm generated by all those speaking and attending the event does give some hope!

Taking it all in, and there was a lot to take in, here are just a few of the many things that resonated with me.

  1. We all need to change our ways and shift our thinking. While impact investment funds now carry returns that match and exceed the more traditional investment vehicles, we really should be thinking not short term and about how much of a margin or financial return I can make, but we need to shift our thinking completely and ask ourselves how this investment I am considering will impact on my children and the generations to come. This should be the bottom line for our investment choices.
  2. How we measure the impact of investments continues to be a challenge and while much work is being done to provide financial institutions with the necessary tools, there remains no universal approach that is easy to follow and that can provide the information that both investment manager and investor needs. Change is happening, but maybe the time for discussing is over and the time for consolidating and implementing should start. The tools and accepted standards seem to be there?
  3. The pressure our food systems face is beyond comprehension. While the developing world continues to waste food and produce too much and continue to feel the repercussions of that both financially and on our health systems, many other regions of the world continue to face malnutrition and even famine. Food security continues to be a major tragedy and will become an even greater tragedy for us in the years ahead if we don’t rethink how we use our land, our technology, and all the many other things that make up our food ecosystem. As individuals we can play a part and help drive this change by changing our habits 
  4. Energy systems in the developing world are creaking. The sector faces many challenges ahead to meet growing demand and deal with geopolitical events around us. The economic cost argument for transitioning to a cleaner and more sustainable energy source is no longer valid. The technology is there, the economic rationale is there, and the innovators are there. The transition to a net zero economy makes more economic sense now than it ever did.
  5. The industries and skills of today will not be the industries and skills of tomorrow. To paraphrase one of the speakers during the final plenary sessions, ‘the past is now a very poor indicator of future growth’. Clearly there is need to rethink our jobs and the skills people can bring to the table, so that impact investment firms and indeed the wider development finance industry, can really create the impact that is needed and intended.

So what does all this mean?   By 2030, 30% of the world’s workforce will need to be upskilled to meet all these challenges ahead of us. There will be jobs of the future that we can’t even begin to imagine , but planning for this needs to start today. The time for action is now.Impact Investor Forum stage of projected growth in the industry

At present, there appears to be a gap in thematic knowledge and skills within the impact investment firms. Conversely, The traditional development finance organisations and banks would hugely benefit from the skills of the impact investment firms. Embracing the experience and knowledge that each sector can offer will help create the leaders of the future and go some way towards creating the impact that ultimately, we are all trying to achieve.

Thinking back on my own experience, I can say without doubt that having that blend of both investment banking from my earlier career, combined with the international development experience I gained in more recent years, has given me a unique insight into development finance. 

This conversation certainly does not end with the event, and we look forward to supporting our clients as they navigate their next steps in the impact investing sector. Feel free to contact us here to discuss more.

Video Posted with permission from ISSIMO


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