Top fund groups launch retail impact platform

Firms join forces with The Big Issue magazine to give investors access to ethical investments


Robbie Lawther

A group of fund managers are joining forces with The Big Issue, a street magazine sold by homeless or vulnerably housed people, to launch an investment platform to give retail investors access to a range of social and environmental impact funds.

This is part of a long-term project with the UK publication, called The Big Exchange.

Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), Columbia Threadneedle Investments, AllianceBernstein and Alquity will join as founders and offer their impact funds on the platform.


The impact platform, The Big Funds, is phase one of the project that will make impact investing and ethical financial services available to all through a mobile-first system.

ASI global head of distribution Campbell Fleming said: “Change in the way the UK invests is long overdue. Low-cost, well-managed impact funds can help people do better with their savings, while doing good for society and the planet without sacrificing financial returns. That’s why we’re launching The Big Exchange.”

Nigel Kershaw, chairman of The Big Exchange and The Big Issue Group, added: “The Big Exchange follows exactly the same principles as The Big Issue and its co-founder John Bird, of a hand up, not a hand out.

“A mission-driven business that is more effective and sustainable because it’s not a charity. It will help millions of people to help each other build a better society. That’s huge.”


The aim is to offer 30 to 40 quality impact funds via the platform. Over the first five years, the project believes it will “become the go-to platform for retail impact investors”.

The platform will allow investors to select their preferred area of impact (matched to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and risk appetite.

Investors will then be able to choose from ready-made bundles or individual funds, and track not only performance but impact through the app.

The platform will also offer educational, support and effectiveness branded content from the fund managers.

The impact that each user creates will be recognised and rewarded through a unique digital social passport and token system.

Paul Robinson, chairman and founder of Alquity, added: “How we choose to spend our money is more powerful than we think. This is particularly true for investment; how we deploy our investment capital shapes our societies.

“The Big Exchange empowers those who crave a better and fairer future by allowing them direct and affordable access to great responsible investment opportunities”


After platform testing, it is expected that a rolling launch programme to the public will start in early 2019 for The Big Funds.

The platform will then be further enhanced with additional functionality and financial products over the course of the year.

Industry executives from the firms involved will be members of The Big Exchange’s executive and investment committees.

ASI’s Fleming called a meeting in November 2017 that led to the original concept, which brought together The Big Issue, investment managers, tech platform builder FNZ and marketing agency AML Group.

Emma Bickerstaffe, ex-HSBC UK head of strategy, will lead the launch team, along with consulting firm Fimatix, Trowers & Hamlin, Herbert Smith Freehills, 3D Investing and FNZ’s regulated affiliate Rexigon Securities, which will provide execution and custody.

The team has developed the platform to user testing stage, with a beta version to be launched early in 2019.

– This article first appeared on ESG Clarity‘s sister site Portfolio Adviser.

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