The Really Great Thing about the Charity Bank/Investing for Good Merger

Since the merger between these two organisations was announced I have wanted to blog about it but so many events have intervened. The merger will greatly help both organisations in their respective development and bring together three people of whom I am very fond and respect in the sector: Geoff Burnand, Malcolm Hayday and, in particular Caroline Mason. But this is not the most important thing about this “merger”. The key is that two social businesses have put their egos aside to work together. This is an all-too-rare example in our sector of putting goals and objectives ahead of personal agendas–I salute all three of them for it!

It is also true that the merger creates an entity with a useful degree of scale. Although Investing for Good (I4G) had been progressing nobly in the sector, providing useful information and metrics on social and ethical investments to the sophisticated market, primarily via private banks, IFAs and other advisors, I feared for their ability to sustain their activities until the market saw their notable value. Being part of a much bigger entity gives their efforts needed stability and the two I4G principals a platform and stable earnings–the latter a rarity in the world of social entrepreneurship!

For Charity Bank, the merger with I4G adds some interesting products and capabilities, but also answers vital questions about succession. For years the bank had been synonymous with Malcolm Hayday, who built the institution into a serious player. Many do not realise the extent of their commendable portfolio of loans. With Geoff and Caroline both joining the senior ranks, the combined organisation is more likely than ever to thrive and play a substantial role in third sector finance.

Yet as I said above, the key was the ability of both parties to “keep their eyes on the prize” and accept that they could do more together than separately. This is so rare in the social business, enterprise and investment world that merely the reality of the combination is news in itself. Frequently insurmountable egos block sensible actions. It reminds me also of proposed mergers in the charity sector of which I am aware but were not consummated for the wrong reasons. Perhaps the absence of a sufficient profit imperative undermines the incentive for effective business combinations? We at ClearlySo have been exploring cooperation efforts on our own, thus far with mixed success. If we all follow the lead of I4G, Charity Bank and their leaders, I think we will all be better off!

Rodney Schwartz



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