Receiving mandates from asset owners is a huge part of every asset manager’s life. Especially when it comes to impact investment - where an asset owner, like a pension fund, may not have a high degree of expertise or knowledge about the subject - it’s vitally important to put together an effective pitch document when they send out an RFP (‘request for proposal’).
As part of our impact investment podcast series, we interviewed a collection of the leading experts in the impact investment space to ask them about the growing industry and their role in helping it grow. In this article, we look at 5 tips you can implement to create a great impact investment mandate pitch:
1. Lead with your mission
As with any competitive industry, the need to stand out and differentiate is really important when it comes to influencing the decisions of your buyers - in this case, asset owners.
Leading with your mission means telling everyone about who you are. What you stand for. Your values and your principles. Why you are different and why the asset owner should trust you with the management of their capital.
Danyal Sattar at Big Issue Invest told us that it’s important to be mission-first. For them, it’s originating out of the Big Issue, a brand that is synonymous with the British public. At the core of their mission, Big Issue Invest works to help the poorest within communities with a range of debt funding, start-up loans, and business support. They know their story and tell it well.
For Ed Heaven at Montanaro Asset Management, it’s their newly-gained B Corp accreditation status that helps them to stand apart. The rigorous certification process involved Montanaro closely analysing parts of their business, such as environmental performance & footprint and employee engagement, to give the company a score. Ed told us that the third party recognition from B Corp was a “really important seal of approval.”
Know what differentiates you as a firm, and then lay that out for the asset owner.
Lead with your mission.
2. Use case study examples
As the impact investment space is still relatively nascent, there is a real opportunity to use storytelling to assist your pitching process. As humans, we all instinctively connect with stories and there is power in taking your audience on an evocative journey through your proposition. Impact investment projects - take hydroponic farming, for instance - are inherently interesting subjects and make for compelling reading and/or watching.
That’s where the use of case studies and real-world examples come in. As Jim Totty from Earth Capital said to us, it’s the opportunity for the asset owners to “kick the tyres” of your strategy and really understand how impact investment works in practice.
So, find your best case study examples of impact investment and showcase them! This could be via written text, photography, and even video. Grab their attention!
Use case study examples.
3. Show your process
This one is admittedly simple. Yet, the importance of simple points is often overlooked. Like any mandate response in any area of investment, you need to be able to demonstrate how you go about managing & investing capital for an asset owner.
Damien Lardoux at EQ Investors explained that having a “strong process” and the ability to show it to investors is vital for gaining their trust and winning their mandate. The communication aspect here is equally key as it’s paramount that asset owners know “what they’re getting very clearly”, said Danyal Sattar of Big Issue Invest.
This is your chance to show asset owners how you are going to make an intentional positive environmental and social impact through your investment, alongside what Ed Heaven of Montanaro called the “demonstration of your ability to make financial returns”. Investors always have a fiduciary duty, particularly pension funds.
Be transparent and allow asset owners to meet your analysts, managers, and other team members to build trust and credibility.
Show your process.
4. Demonstrate your track record and your team’s credentials
This point came up with most of our interviewed asset managers and it rings true with the asset owner audience you are pitching to. Many funds, particularly in the pensions space, like to see and hear about success of peers before committing themselves to a specific strategy.
It’s useful to explain your track record at this point and describe the background of your team, including their expertise, skills, and previous roles. If you have worked with a pension fund before then it’s a perfect opportunity to showcase the results - both financial and impact - and really drive home your previous performance with their peers.
As Simon Chisholm of Resonance said, displaying your track record allows you to show how you will earn your clients a “commercial risk-adjusted return” and mitigate any risk associated with the investment.
Emphasise your team, talk about your achievements, and impress in your pitch.
Demonstrate your track record and your team’s credentials.
5. Explain your impact with measurement & reporting
The fact that makes impact investing ‘game-changing’ is its ability to create intentional positive environmental and social impact alongside achieving a market-rate financial return. An impact investment mandate response would not be complete without your explanation of the impact your investments help to create.
The measurement and reporting aspect is absolutely crucial and allows you to display how you will go about doing what you say you are going to do. Whether it’s reporting with a slick presentation document like Montanaro’s Better World Fund 2018 report (written by Ed Heaven) or using a sophisticated measurement device like Earth Capital’s Earth Dividend Tool, it’s essential to measure and report on your impact.
You’re creating a better future for us all, so make sure you have the ability to measure it, and then tell the world about it, too!
Ethical Compass is an independent impact mapping agency working exclusively for pension funds. We help asset owners to understand, measure and communicate the social and environmental impact of their portfolio.
Authored by Ben Holden, Co-Founder, Ethical Compass.
Thank you to Damien Lardoux, Ed Heaven, Jim Totty, Danyal Sattar, and Simon Chisholm for their contributions.