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Alumni Insights: Working in Impact Investing and How I Got Here

Date:03 September 2020

Five years ago, I started my bachelor’s in International Business at the RUG. Fast forward to this summer and I'm working for the Canadian impact investment firm True North Impact. True North is a young company aiming to raise C$30-40M in its first round of funding this fall. Previously, we have invested in three ventures and have made a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) deal through which we became one of the main suppliers of N95 masks to the Canadian government.

When I started my studies, I had no idea what path these studies would lead me down. Like many of us, I chose business as a 'safe bet'; unable to find a more compelling alternative and envisioning myself as somewhat of a “badass businesswoman” at some point in the future. However, over the years I realized that business alone did not cut it for me. I wanted something more—to make a positive contribution to the world. I really liked finance, but I didn't like just talking money. Issues such as international development, education, income and gender inequality, climate change, migration, you name it, would spark a fire in me that I had not felt in my business degree. Once I came to this realization, my focus started shifting towards the public sector and I started exploring a number of extracurricular activities that touched public topics.

As I approached the end of my bachelor’s, I had to ask myself whether I wanted to continue in business or further pursue my diverging interests in a political science master’s. Because I had been eyeing the prestigious CEMS program (an international master's degree in management) at Rotterdam School of Management for quite some time already, I decided to stay in business just a tad longer. And it was through this degree that I met my current boss at True North.

During the first semester, a professor had us write a case study on a firm facing an international strategy problem. Through CEMS' Facebook platforms we found a CEMS alumnus working at Simon Kucher Amsterdam, a strategy consulting firm, that wanted to take us on. He became our supervisor; I became the team lead. Working together over the entire semester, we bonded over our common interests and passion for impact. Over time, we developed a mentor-like relationship and stayed in touch even after the project had ended. He had been working to launch True North’s first impact fund on the side for a while, and nearing the summer he asked me to join the team to help really get it off the ground. Providing me the opportunity to combine the finance work that I enjoyed with the sense of purpose and of building something beyond monetary objectives I desired, impact investing seemed like the perfect fit.

Today, we have defined our fund strategy and will deploy capital across the 6 promising trends of Agtech, Renewable Energy, Digital Healthcare, Ageing Populations, Smart Cities, and Sustainable Consumption. All of them are of massive significance to sustaining quality of life and our environment. Fortunately, True North is not the only firm realizing the potential and importance of investing responsibly. Catalyzed by the current pandemic and the social justice movements, ESG investing, a catch-all term for investments that factor in environmental, social, and governance impact in addition to financial returns, is growing rapidly. At True North, we see impact investing, a subset of ESG-investments, quickly following suit in the coming years and decades.

Are you curious about impact investing? Or are you facing struggles similar to mine, trying to reconcile your business background with a desire to have a positive impact on the world? Please do reach out to me on LinkedIn for tips or just a chat between two likeminded individuals.

 

Merthe Weusthuis

 

For more information about True North, please visit https://truenorthimpact.com.

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