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The process for those wishing to invest and make a social or environmental impact and for those seeking such investments just got a little easier.
This week, SVX, a registered exempt market dealer in the country’s four largest provinces as well as being a non-profit organization led by Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, launched its new ethical investment platform. That platform, whose long-form name is Social Venture Connexion, represents an advanced — and broader — platform compared with an earlier version launched in 2013.
“We’re enabling all Canadians to invest for positive impact,” said Adam Spence, the founder and chief executive of SVX, who referred to the new platform, services and issuers as a “game changer for impact investing in Canada.”
Spence, 36, whose organization is supported by the TMX, the Ontario government, the law firm Torys LLP, and two prominent foundations, added SVX can help “unleash assets for individuals and communities with a tremendous amount of potential.”
SVX, which operates as an exempt market dealer, says it’s the only platform in Canada focused on offering investment opportunities in companies that “aim to do social and environmental good while making profits.” Previously it was only open to accredited investors but can now cast its net to retail investors. Under SVX 1.0 about $100 million was raised by about 150 issuers.
What excites Spence about SVX 2.0 is the additional features that have been incorporated from SVX 1.0, a platform Spence calls a “match-making data base.” In essence the new platform facilitates financial transactions and allows SVX to operate nationally, while opening up opportunities for both accredited investors and retail investors.
Investments from the average punter are accepted provided the campaign, or particular investment, is eligible, and provided the investment is deemed suitable from a risk, return and investment objective perspective. “We help investors make good impact investments by ensuring that it’s a good fit,” noted Spence. Both debt and equity investments are being offered.
Spence is also excited about the 10 new issuers — in areas ranging from renewable energy to enterprises empowering new Canadians — that have joined the platform.
The First Nations Bank is one newcomer. The bank, founded in Saskatchewan in 1996, now has eight full-service branches and five community banking centres in Aboriginal communities. Majority Aboriginal-owned, the bank has about $35 million of equity capital, and about $500 million in assets, of which $330 million is in loans. (TD Bank was one of its earliest shareholders and still has an-almost 20 per cent stake.)
The bank is hoping to raise about $7 million of equity, of which $5 million will come from “targeted Aboriginal investors, the regional organizations that we typically raise our capital from through private placements,” said Keith Martell, chief executive.
The hope is to raise the other $2 million from “social impact investors.” A minimum investment of $50,000 is required. “We have to continue to raise capital to drive our growth,” added Martell.
The Immigrant Access Fund is another first-time issuer on SVX. IAF has been around since 2003 and supports hundreds of immigrants by providing direct loans to help pay for the licensing or training. The average loan is about $7,000.
So what’s behind all the developments? For one, regulations around accredited investments, in essence exemptions available under offering memorandums and crowd funding, and that allow greater retail participation have changed. Then there’s the fintech revolution and the associated technology, which makes it easier to match up those with capital and those wanting capital. Finally, social impact investing/responsible investing continues to gather new supporters.
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