Industry events / 07 October 2021

BVCA Summit 2021 - Day 2 review

BVCA Summit 2021 - Day 2 review

Across the BVCA Summit 2 day event Crestbridge will publish a brief rundown of key takeaways from each session as the event unfolds. 

The event, which is deemed to be the UK's premier private equity and venture capital conference will take place online whilst this year’s exclusive roundtable discussions and networking events will take place in person.

Read our full review from Day 2 at BVCA Summit 2021 below.

ESG, net zero and impact investment were the main themes of the second day of the BVCA Summit 2021 virtual conference, addressed by a wide range of industry participants from start to finish. There was much talk of platforms, journeys, destinations, challenges, opportunities and other industry jargon. There was even some mention of saving the planet.

The day started with a brief welcome from Michael Moore, Director General, BVCA, who lost little time in moving on to the first formal topic of the morning: The Climate Agenda - Private Capital's Contribution. Participants in the first panel of the day were Gurpreet Manku, Deputy Director General and Director of Policy, BVCA and Sara Rajaswaran, Director, External Affairs, BVCA.

This was followed by a short presentation by Suzi Gillespie, Head of Research at BVCA. Unfazed by a slight technical issue, she duly delivered what she herself described as a whistlestop tour of the results of a BVCA ESG survey in the summer, briefly featuring highlights from a range of responses from a range of those approached.

We learnt that 85% of respondents said ESG is important to long as there is still an investment return and that the vast majority have an ESG policy in place or will do soon. Only four out of 119 respondents to the survey did not.

No fewer than 73% of investors have no funds that are subject to the EU sustainable finance disclosure regulation and fewer than half of portfolio companies currently comply with task force climate reporting requirements.

Some 70% of respondents say portfolio companies have carbon reduction plans in place, while 40% have announced net zero carbon targets for portfolio companies and 58% say their firm has signed up to PRI (principles for responsible investment).

A key feature of the morning's programme was a cosy fireside chat between Michael Moore and Lord John Browne of Madingley, Senior Adviser, General Atlantic, formerly CEO of British Petroleum, and arguably the first major CEO to recognise climate change.

Lord Browne began by pointing out that when he made a landmark speech around 23 years ago, what was a big problem was becoming an even bigger one, but that he was in something of a minority. “I set out action BP would take and I was told by other oil companies and organisations that BP had 'left the church'” he recalled.

But the BP team believed in the issue more than others and kept saying so to friends and families. NGOs and politicians said it was unreal and asked for evidence of what BP was doing to translate its words into action, and the company was accused of what we have come to call greenwashing. 

That was not true, said Lord Browne. “We committed to invest $1bn a year and 23 years ago $1bn was a lot of money.”

Themes are much louder and much bigger today, he continued, citing wild fires and desertification, amongst other highly publicised natural phenomena. “Climate change was a big problem, now it is a gigantic problem.”

But all is not lost, he advises. “I'm all in favour of action, setting real targets and measuring against targets. But I would say that, wouldn't I? I do believe the combination of great brains and money will deliver breakthroughs.”

The second fireside chat of the morning saw the alarmingly young-looking Jonathan Bailey, Head of ESG Investing, Neuberger Berman, interview Faith Ward, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Brunel Pension Partnership, and Chair, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

“We ask all our investment managers to be thoughtful of climate change,” she said, struggling at times with a system that made audio at times almost, well, inaudible. “Current ambitions do not add up to net zero and we need to increase those ambitions,” she added.
“We need to be taking action now.”

Jonathan Bailey returned to the stage immediately, as if by media magic, to moderate a panel titled 'How does the industry contribute to the net zero agenda?' It starred Graeme Ardus. Head of ESG, Triton, Katharina Neureiter, Head of ESG for EMEA, Carlyle, Padmesh Shukla, CIO, TFL Pension Fund and Zoë VanderWolk Investor Relations & Sustainability Manager, ETF Partners, who individually and collectively made a number of interesting points.

Data drives the discussion and capturing data at investee companies drives investment, said Graeme Ardus. “If governments back up policy declarations with policy action it might make a difference,” said Katharina Neureiter, unconsciously echoing Lord Brown. “Roll up your sleeves. This will be a big growth area,” she added. Step change needs to happen and the private equity industry will play an important role, suggested Padmesh Shukla.

It's more important than ever to put in net zero policies early, stated Zoë VanderWolk. “Think about future emissions now,” she said. “Plan for the future and be a more attractive acquisition target in that future. Get the software in. Get the tools in. Get the data in. Everybody wants to be in this area.”

In his closing remarks, Michael Moore said farewell to the audience (the summit attracted over 800 participants, the BVCA calculates), reflecting upon another amazing day. He said a clear thank you to all those working unseen behind the scenes who made the event possible, and that he was looking forward to the planned evening reception and rubbing shoulders with, inter alia, GPs and LPs. 

Leon de Bron, one of the two presenting anchors throughout the summit, took the opportunity to re-emphasise the importance of case studies in educating the world beyond PE/VC about the value of PE/VC.

His fellow-presenter Amy Abbott said she had learnt a lot from the two days, giving a special mention in despatches to the celebrated Lord Browne. She also advised that anyone wanting to learning more about the day's main topic, ESG, should look out for the BVCA's new report on the subject. 

We hope you have enjoyed our key takeaways from BVCA Summit 2021 follow us on LinkedIn for more insights. 

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