Since joining BGF at its inception, Andy has brought his wealth of experience within the private equity sector, first to his roles as Regional Director and Chief Investment Officer, and now to his position as CEO. He is particularly interested in the connection between business and society, and brings a unique perspective as CEO after spending over a decade making meaningful investments with BGF.
BGF began with a vision of a new investment model that had a clear sense of purpose. How does that purpose guide investments and business strategy today?
The uncertainty that followed the 2008 crash created new challenges for SMEs where long-term investment and sustainable growth became even more important. BGF was created to address the chronic lack of support for that section of the market.
Our founding purpose was precisely to drive growth and returns and build scale in a long term, sustainable way – and we’ve retained absolute clarity and commitment to fulfilling that purpose today.
“The uncertainty that followed the 2008 crash created new challenges for SMEs where long term investment and sustainable growth became even more important. BGF was created to address the chronic lack of support for that section of the market.”
BGF was trying to solve something that hadn’t been tackled before. There were certainly challenges in proving our value to a market that wasn’t always ready to see why we were there, or was not yet economically aligned on the need for our existence.
It can be difficult to explain something that is both new and nuanced, but it’s a challenge that we had to overcome in order to create change.
How does BGF differ from other investment models?
From the start, BGF was created to solve a problem – not just to make money. We were resolutely focused on the need for investors to back entrepreneurs in a scalable, supportive and patient way.
Due to the high quality capital on our balance sheet, we can provide flexible follow-on capital to investee businesses as they grow. We can focus on the relationships that we build as a minority partner, and increasingly consider the impact that our investments and operations and their growth and operations have in local communities and on the wider world.
In the early days, I remember noticing some scepticism – an expectation that our evolution into a normal private equity house would be inevitable. But we’re very focused on staying true to purpose. We had an opportunity to build something completely new on a blank sheet of paper and we fully embraced it.
You describe good growth through five principles: Lead Well, Grow Sustainably, Take Thoughtful Steps, Keep Broad Minds and Go Further, Together. When it comes to your investments, what is good growth?
It’s about helping good companies to grow the right way, as well as making sure we are growing in the right way. A lot of the people we back are first time founders and many are in established family businesses, so a key part of our role as facilitators of good growth is not just the capital but the experience and framework for thoughtful governance and sustainable growth.
Good growth demands collaboration, not control. We’re continually aware of building for the long term and so we do not impose artificially short timeframes around exits, meaning investee businesses can grow at a pace that works for them.
We want to encourage collegiate behaviour that can have a positive influence. One of the ways we add value in this way is through our non-executive director network, made up of thousands of people across different industries. Those relationships are incredibly important and they’re built through trust and alignment on values.
How do you think about making change in the world?
Creating change is never easy, because you’re doing something completely new. It’s about not being afraid to take a different path to how most of the industry is wired. It might not always be the obvious, tried and tested approach. Sometimes you have to take a detour to get where you want to go.
It is also about learning from each other. I think that comes back to the importance of trust, credibility and alignment of interest, all of which have to be earned.
In your view, what makes a good leader?
Consistency, trust and clarity of mission. It’s a two-way relationship between leaders and their teams, and trust is completely integral to that relationship not only functioning but thriving.
On an organisational level, BGF has been a leader in growth capital for over a decade, and with that leadership we have the ability and therefore the responsibility to do things in the right way – that means making decisions that will be beneficial in the long term, not just easy wins for short-term gain.
“Being a leader isn’t about being perfect. It’s also not even about having all of the answers. It’s about being able to guide, inspire and bring the best out of a diverse team who, when brought together, can create incredible change.”
Being a leader isn’t about being perfect. It’s also not even about having all of the answers. It’s about being able to guide, inspire and bring the best out of a diverse team who, when brought together, can create incredible change.
How do you navigate adversity?
There are always challenges in investing. Instead of trying to avoid that uncertainty or volatility, you have to accept it as an ongoing challenge. Resilience becomes the key ingredient in navigating those deviations.
A long-term view helps to keep you on track and reminds you that there is a larger purpose behind the work, and a supportive team bolsters that sense of strength and commitment when things get tricky.
What have you seen change since BGF was founded?
I’ve noticed a considerable shift in the number of organisations and investors who are talking about purpose now – it’s become something that is integrated into business, rather than a tick-box exercise tacked on as an afterthought.
Because of that, the opportunity for us at BGF to have an even greater positive impact has only increased. We still have the founding mission that was set by our shareholders when we were created and I think it’s incredibly special that we’re still able to draw on that vision to guide our broader goals and the impact that we want to have on the world.
What do you view as the next chapter for the investment industry?
The industry is at a really exciting stage and it’s important to highlight the positive impact of doing things in the right way. It’s easy to just focus on the negative stories or the stereotypes of equity investing, but that’s not the whole story.
It’s not just about good financial outcomes anymore, it’s about the impact that good growth can have on society as a whole. It’s about supporting businesses to evolve in every aspect of ESG and doing it in a way that connects their impact to the places and the world around them.
“It’s about supporting businesses to evolve in every aspect of ESG and doing it in a way that connects their impact to the places and the world around them.”
It’s something that we’re already seeing, and it’s something that I’m excited to see more of. It’s a crucial part to building stronger, more sustainable and more successful businesses and societies.
Even the biggest corporations are made up of individual people with their own fears, anxieties, hopes and values. What is the ‘why’ behind what you do?
Creating something that will make a difference in the world. I started on this journey with BGF many years ago, and my purpose has become ensuring that BGF has a strong foundation so that it is able to continue flourishing, growing and creating a thoughtful and positive impact long into the future.
In the end, when I think about why I do what I do, it’s not just about the KPIs, or the numbers, or the short term. It’s about something much broader that can’t be expressed through financial results or reports.
Having a purpose is not easy. It’s something that I am still learning, and I think everyone is probably still learning. But for me, seeing the work that I do and that my team does have an impact on others is the compass that reminds me we’re walking the right path.