Menhaden – Focus for Change

by .
Originally published in Impact Investor

The latest member of the Social Stock Exchange is the investment trust Menhaden, which also floated on the London Stock Exchange at the end of July.

Menhaden, which is chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire (Sir Ian recently spoke at Jericho on the benefits of avoiding a ‘Brexit’ from the EU. You can find out more about the talk here), former CEO of Kingfisher, is the brain child of the fund manager Ben Goldsmith, who co-founded in 2002 the asset management firm WHEB. Goldsmith is stepping back a little from WHEB although he will remain on its board. Menhaden will focus its investments on companies and other assets that are aimed at improving energy efficiency – Goldsmith also chairs the Conservative Environment Network, a forum for those Conservatives interested in promoting green policies.

I spoke to Goldsmith before Menhaden’s float and asked him the most obvious question: why join the Social Stock Exchange? “I just love the concept,” he said. “There are lots of places where you can find businesses that are focused on not making a negative impact. But to create a place where you can invest in businesses deliberately aimed at making a positive impact is a very powerful idea.”

Big guns at the rear

Goldsmith’s successful experience at WHEB, together with the persuasive power of Menhaden’s tightly focused aim on energy efficiency – a rising trend if ever there was one – have secured the backing of some very big guns indeed. The venture capitalist Jon Moulton; Deborah Meaden of “Dragon’s Den” fame; and Michael Spencer, CEO of ICAP, the global broker/dealer are just a few of those who have pledged their wallets to get Menhaden motoring. Such wealthy individuals are not moved by sentiment when it comes to investment; they can see the future. Driven by policy, high and rising financial costs, widening public protest, and depleting reserves, fossil fuels are increasingly being seen as last century’s energy source; in the 21st century, renewable energy and energy efficiency are the new mantra. In 2014, investment trusts that focus on renewable energy infrastructure raised £773m from new shares issued, against £93m in 2013, according to figures from the Association of Investment Companies (AIC).

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