Interview: Andrew Haigh

Interview: Andrew Haigh
David Ainsworth, Third Sector

Help business angels to help others, says the managing partner of Coutts & Co’s entrepreneur group

Social enterprise is the way forward for private bank Coutts & Co, according to Andrew Haigh, managing partner of the bank’s entrepreneur group.

He says that the 20,000 individuals looked after by his department, which provides banking services to entrepreneurs, are keen to give more support to social entrepreneurs.

"We’ve got a lot of clients who are interested in putting more time and money into social enterprise," he says.

"Many wealthy individuals looked after by the bank are keen to give something back to society, but aren’t necessarily keen on philanthropy. When you explain the concept of social enterprise to them, their eyes light up.

"We’re keen to introduce them to more social enterprises so we can give our customers what they want. Many – perhaps even the majority – are interested in this."

The bank has already set up a similar service to help clients who want to become involved in philanthropy, says Haigh. It’s this service that gives him the clearest indication of how to approach the new scheme.

"The lesson we learned from the philanthropy service is that engaging our clients is a slow process, but that it builds from a trickle into a flood," he says. "We expect the new service will be popular too."

The focus of Coutts’ clients is mostly on ‘angel investment’, he says, where the entrepreneur can become closely involved in a new or growing business and support it not only with a loan or equity investment, but also with personal expertise, experience and contacts.

Coutts & Co has already set up an information service on social enterprise investment for its clients. This is run by ClearlySo, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and UnLtd, three organisations that help social entrepreneurs set up or develop their enterprises.

The bank will also host a series of education days and ‘speed networking’ events at which potential investors will have the opportunity to meet social enterprises that require investment funding. The first of these events will be held early in September.

"There’s a lot of untapped cash out there," says Haigh. "The sector has focused on building funds and winning money from government.

"There are a lot of business angels out there who are willing to get involved as well."