At 8pm every Thursday the UK steps out onto front doorsteps and balconies to clap for our carers. This simple act of appreciation and support is being matched around the world by people and companies doing what they can in the fight against COVID-19.
Many companies are working to develop tests and treatments for coronavirus but there are lots of other ways businesses have been showing their solidarity and support. The Association of Investment Companies (AIC) has spoken to its membership to see what investment companies and their portfolio holdings have been doing aside from testing and treatments to support the global initiative. Responses range from providing free data for health workers in Turkey to donating face masks to the NHS.
Annabel Brodie-Smith, Communications Director of the Association of Investment Companies (AIC), said: “It’s heartening to see how investment companies and their portfolio holdings have been helping during the COVID-19 emergency. The help has included donating PPE, offering services for free and providing support and advice to small businesses. Investment companies have over 150 years of heritage so they are no strangers to extraordinary times. It’s good to see investment companies and their holdings helping today.”
Face masks for the NHS
James Armstrong, Managing Partner of Bluefield Partners, the investment adviser of Bluefield Solar Income Fund, said: “We were pleased to partner with our Chinese friends, LONGi Solar, on a local PPE initiative. In April, we were contacted by LONGi, the Shanghai based solar manufacturer, asking whether Bluefield needed any PPE for our teams operating in the field. We said yes and 2,000 face masks arrived. Our teams only needed a few hundred so we were delighted to donate 1,600 masks to the Royal United Hospital (RUH) Bath who are on the front line fighting COVID-19. My twin sons were born in the RUH almost exactly 12 years ago. It’s nice to be able to give something back to the wonderful staff at the hospital. Bluefield would like to thank them for the amazing work they are doing.”
Volunteering to help entrepreneurs
Tim Levene, CEO of Augmentum Fintech, said: “Augmentum is perhaps unusual amongst most investment companies as our entire portfolio is focused on fintech. As such our portfolio companies have been at the centre of much of the COVID-19 response, and given they are all technology companies, the response has been rapid. Habito’s online mortgage and re-mortgage services were able to ensure customers could make progress whilst in lockdown, iwoca are offering CBILS [Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme] loans, Tide are offering Bounce Back Loans, as well as having launched a coronavirus assistance hub to support small businesses during the pandemic and Farewill are supporting key workers with free wills for NHS staff.
“As a fund we have been working closely with our portfolio companies and inputting on government initiatives such as the Future Fund. Our partners have been hosting 1:1 Office Hours sessions with early stage fintech founders to support the wider industry and to ensure innovation continues and start-ups can continue to scale when they are ready. We also launched TeenVC, a free digital education platform where teenagers can learn about venture capital and entrepreneurship, at a time when teenagers are at home and parents and schools are looking for online educational activities.”
Free data for health workers in Turkey
Matthias Siller, Co-Manager of Baring Emerging Europe, said: “A company we invest a meaningful amount in, which provided an exemplary response to the COVID-19 related humanitarian challenges, is Turkcell, the leading mobile network operator in Turkey. Whilst not directly involved in the production or distribution of PPE or other healthcare equipment or services, we believe that the swift and non-bureaucratic actions taken by management to support businesses, individuals and households in dealing with the pandemic set a standard for other companies to aim for. Some of the key initiatives worth mentioning include hygiene equipment for field employees as well as free data allowances for university students, subscribers in the health sector and subscribers aged over 65 to facilitate remote working, online education and connectivity.”
The £50,000 “Wage War on Covid Fund”
Robin West, Co-Manager of Invesco Perpetual UK Smaller Companies Investment Trust, said: “We always seek to invest in well-managed, quality companies. One characteristic of a strong management team is an understanding and awareness of how the business interacts with and affects all its stakeholders: staff, customers and the wider community as well as shareholders.
We are pleased to see how some portfolio companies are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased awareness of the social ‘S’ component of ESG.
Consultant engineers Ricardo have engineered and assembled face shields which were donated to workers in care homes and NHS facilities local to four of the company’s UK sites; Inspecs Group is an eyewear manufacturer which has diverted its production to supply safety eyewear to frontline medical professionals; and investment platform AJ Bell has launched a ‘Wage War on Covid Fund’ under the umbrella of the AJ Bell Trust, a registered charity, which has allocated £50,000 to the fund. In addition, directors and senior management have donated their April, May and June salaries, alongside other members of staff making similar pledges.”
Supporting cancer care
Ben Wicks, Fund Manager of Schroder UK Public Private Trust, said: “Rutherford Health is the very best of British. It is the first national provider of proton beam therapy, giving patients access to the most advanced form of cancer care within the UK. This is especially beneficial for children, the elderly and patients with a weak immune system. The firm has partnered with the NHS to provide care to patients at a time when many NHS healthcare facilities are dealing with a high number of COVID-19 patients.”