Futurebuilders to ditch application forms

Futurebuilders to ditch application forms
Tania Mason, Charity Finance

Futurebuilders expects to do away with application forms and invite prospective lendees straight to interview, according to its chief executive Jonathan Lewis.

The eventual plan is that applicants who can meet new, more stringent initial criteria laid down by Futurebuilders will progress directly to a meeting either with Futurebuilders staff, if the amount they wish to borrow is below a certain level, or with the investment committee.

Those that apear before the investment committee will be required to present their application in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch process, and will be told within 24 hours whether or not they have been successful.

The newly-appointed investment committee, chaired by former JPMorgan Asset Management managing director Harriett Baldwin, held its first meeting last Wednesday, and six applicants presented. One was successful, one was rejected, and the other four were advised to do a bit more work and return with more information.

Lewis (pictured) is determined to reduce the bureacracy surrounding the application process, which he says is currently too bogged down in paperwork.
‘We invest in people, not organisations’

Because the members of the investment committee are mostly commercial people with experience in venture capital, they are well used to making quick decisions about whether a project is worth investing in.

“You don’t invest in organisations, you invest in people,” he said. “And you can tell within a few minutes whether someone is worth investing in. So why do you need all that paper?”

Some £120m of the £215m fund had already been allocated by the old Futurebuilders board, leaving Lewis and his new team £95m to disburse. They have already committed £20m in their first two months – a substantially faster rate of approval than under the old regime, even though Lewis insists they are not deliberately trying to speed up the decision-making process, only to simplify it.