The Big Exchange joins forces to build a new financial system that works for everyone

A group of leading fund managers, led by Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), are working with The Big Issue to launch a revolutionary mobile-first investment platform that will bring a wide range of social and environmental impact funds direct to a retail audience for the first time.

The Big Issue is aiming to shake-up the City’s financial system with The Big Exchange – a blockchain-based mobile-first platform that offers a new approach to banking, saving and investing.

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(L to R) Aberdeen Standard Investment’s Campbell Fleming, The Big Issue’s Nigel Kershaw and former HSBC head Emma Bickerstaffe will be leading figures in the new venture

ASI Global Head of Distribution Campbell Fleming said,

“Change in the way the UK invests is long overdue. Low cost, well-managed impact funds can help people do better with their savings, while doing good for society and the planet without sacrificing financial returns. That’s why we’re launching The Big Exchange.”

The Big Exchange has received indications of support from major institutions for at least £1 million in funding. As well as the UK’s largest asset manager Aberdeen Standard Investments, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Alliance Beinstein and Alquity will join as founders and offer their impact funds on the platform.

Campbell continued,

“We can take up to twelve firms as founders, who will have exclusive rights in the first year to market their impact funds and help shape The Big Exchange. We are close to closing our initial round, thanks to an overwhelming level of interest and support from the investment industry.”

The Impact Platform (called The Big Funds) is phase one of an ambitious project that makes not only impact investing but also ethical financial services available to all through a simple, accessible, mobile-first interface. The overall objective is a complete blockchain-based ecosystem that works for everyone.

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Nigel Kershaw OBE, Chairman of The Big Exchange and The Big Issue Group, commented,

“The Big Exchange follows exactly the same principles as The Big Issue and its co-founder Lord John Bird of a hand up, not a hand out. A mission-driven business that is more effective and sustainable because it’s not a charity. It will help millions of people to help each other build a better society. That’s huge.”

Michelle Scrimgeour, CEO EMEA, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, said,

“Columbia Threadneedle has been a pioneer in socially responsible investment and we are excited to be part of the Big Exchange, an initiative that will enable all investors to do well by doing good, through easy access to a choice of ethical and social impact funds.”

Paul Robinson, Chairman and Founder of Alquity, commented,

“How we choose to spend our money is more powerful than we think. This is particularly true for investment; how we deploy our investment capital shapes our societies. The Big Exchange empowers those who crave a better and fairer future by allowing them direct and affordable access great responsible investment opportunities,”

A meeting called by Campbell in November 2017 led to the original concept, which brought together Nigel and The Big Issue team, investment managers, tech Platform builder FNZ, led by Phil Goffin and specialist marketing agency AML Group, led by Ian Henderson.

Emma Bickerstaffe (ex HSBC UK Head of Strategy) joined to lead the launch team, along with consulting firm Fimatix, Trowers & Hamlin, Herbert Smith Freehills, 3D Investing and FNZ’s regulated affiliate Rexigon Securities, which will provide execution and custody. The team has developed the platform to user testing stage with a beta version to be launched early in 2019.

Funds will be offered at a price which will be amongst the lowest in the market. The platform will allow investors to select their preferred area of impact (matched to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and risk appetite at a click.

Emma Bickerstaffe, commented:

“The aim is to offer 30-40 quality impact funds via the platform from day one. Over the first five years we believe The Big Exchange will become the go-to platform for retail impact investors and attract around £3 billion of assets.”

According to Nigel,

“Central to The Big Exchange is that investors can understand the positive difference made by their choices. Our unique approach will show investors through clear indicators how funds support the Sustainable Development Goals and align with our commitment to people and the planet.”

They will then be able to choose from ready-made bundles or individual funds, and track not only performance but impact through the app. The platform will also offer high-quality educational, support and effectiveness branded content from the Fund Managers. The impact that each user creates will be recognised and rewarded through a unique digital social passport and token system.

The fund managers will be featured in a ‘movement-based’ marketing programme using advanced consumer targeting (with Experian) via social and digital channels, together with profile-raising PR and advertising activity, coordinated by AML Group.

After platform testing, it is expected that a rolling launch programme to the public will start in early 2019 for The Big Funds. The platform will then be further enhanced with additional functionality and financial products over the course of the year. Leading industry executives from the firms involved will be members of The Big Exchange’s executive and investment committees.