In Conversation with Lina Bowden
In conversation with Lina Bowden, Founder of VERGE Capital, which operates two social finance loan funds that provide capital to both new and established organizations across Southwestern Ontario.
SVX is delighted to be hosting the All-in Impact Gathering in the idyllic region of Prince Edward County (PEC) this October. In the lead up to this exciting event, we will be sharing the stories of some attendees, peer advisors, and expert coaches to give a taste of what the Gathering will entail.
Peer Advisor, Lina Bowden, will be joining the gathering in October to share her personal and industry experience in impact investing. Lina is the founder of VERGE Capital, a program of Pillar Nonprofit Network, which connects impact investors to social enterprises and impact initiatives.VERGE Capital and Pillar Nonprofit Network, in partnership with SVX, have also established the VERGE Breakthrough Fund to demonstrate that investors can earn a financial return while creating significant community impact in the Southwestern Ontario region.
Q: You have a background in traditional investing, how did you foray into the impact investing world?
I spent almost 30 years in the traditional investment industry; I was a partner with Highstreet Asset Management and then part of the executive team at AGF Management Limited. I had a lot of experience working in that space, but was also very interested in doing community and international work. I wanted to make that connection between finance and community development, so I left AGF in 2010 to complete a Masters of Arts in Development Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. This degree gave me the knowledge I needed to create an impact investing ecosystem in Southwestern Ontario with VERGE Capital.
Q: Not only do you work in impact investing, but you have made impact investments yourself. Why did you start impact investing?
My first impact investment was an international one. I had been involved with a community organization in northern Peru that was developing a social enterprise and needed capital to purchase a building, so I provided them with a mortgage to get their social enterprise off the ground. After that, I saw that there was an opportunity to use my investment portfolio for more than the “do no harm” lens, rather, I wanted to create impact. I started doing that at a personal level through my investment portfolio and a private foundation that my family has together.
Q: We are delighted to have you at All-in Impact as a peer advisor given your considerable history and experience in impact investing both personally and professionally. Why are you excited for the All-in Impact Gathering?
Personally, I have made a number of impact investments but don’t have an all-in impact portfolio. I feel as though I’m on a journey to understanding how I can leverage my investments at capacity towards all-in impact, so I’m excited that the gathering will bring people together who share the same vision for their portfolio.
It’s not like other conferences where you go to hear speakers talk. Rather, it’s going to be an opportunity to sit down with each other in small groups and have meaningful conversations. Through peer-to-peer engagement, we can learn best practices and the types of financial products that are available to impact investors, with the goal to have attendees travel further along their impact investing process.
Q: Who do you hope to see at the All-in Impact Gathering in the Fall?
I think that the All-in Impact Gathering in October is going to be a phenomenal place for families, individuals, and foundations who are considering entering into the impact investing space or looking at scaling to an “all-in” portfolio.
There are a lot of people who are considering impact investing or are in their early days of it, as well as families and private foundations that are structurally defining their impact investing intentions but don’t yet know how to follow through with them. Execution is not so easy as the marketplace is still building, and there is a lot of development that is happening in the impact investing industry. To really get the most out of the All-in Impact Gathering and to create tangible action plans for moving forward, I think it’s important that key decision makers are there. Those who will be able to make decisions about assets and actions will gain the most out of the Gathering.
Q: Beyond All-in Impact, SVX has partnered with VERGE Capital through multiple avenues. Where do you find the value and strength in this partnership?
VERGE and Pillar Nonprofit work locally within the Southern Ontario region, so we know our investor community really well and work closely with social enterprises. SVX has expertise in creating fund structures and completing due diligence, so our relationship has been successful because we leverage the expertise that VERGE has locally with the expertise that SVX has nationally. Together, we’re working on building impact investment portfolios from both the local and national levels.
If you are interested in attending the All-in Impact Gathering in October, please visit the website here for more information and to register to attend. Spots are limited.