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Family offices among pioneers of impact investing

By Jessica Tasman-Jones

Family offices and high net worth individuals are among some of the leading investors in impact investments – a practice forecast to be worth $12.7 billion (€9.4 billion) in 2014, according to a new report.

Wealthy individuals and families account for 17% of total capital raised by fund managers, said The Impact Investor Survey, released by JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN).

This was behind pension funds and insurance companies, which accounted for 22% of total capital, but just ahead of development finance institutions (16%) and retail investors (15%) as well as foundations, which accounted for 8%.

Impact investing is the practice of investing in companies that deliver a measureable social or environmental benefit, but can still deliver a financial return to investors.

Fund managers surveyed for the research reported they were more likely to have some capital from family offices or high net worth (HNW) individuals than any other group. This included those investing independently or through a private bank.

According to the annual report, respondents – 125 of the world’s largest impact investors – expected to commit 19% more capital to impact investing this year compared to last. They also expected the number of impact investment deals to rise 31%.

Luther Ragin Jr, president and chief executive at GIIN, said he believed that family offices and HNW individuals were often more open to novel investment opportunities.

“Family offices are often more nimble and creative than larger institutional investors and can utilise different types of capital to meet different needs. Given their private nature, however, they are often less well known to emerging asset managers.”

Co-author of the report Yasemin Saltuk, a director of social finance research at JP Morgan, says investors are targeting a variety of social, environmental and financial objectives and are finding themselves satisfied with the results.

Ninety-one per cent of investors surveyed said financial returns were above or in line with their expectations, and 99% reported satisfaction with the social and/or environmental impact of their investments.

Saltuk said increasing collaboration between investors, governments and other stakeholders in 2014 meant the outlook for the growth and development of impact investing looked promising.

A global taskforce, established by the G8 last year and led by Sir Ronald Cohen, is due to give its recommendations in September about the best framework to create a global and sustainable social impact investment market.