Finance Matters interviews Roberta Bove, Executive Palladium

24 Jun Finance Matters interviews Roberta Bove, Executive Palladium

Bio

Name: Roberta Bove

Based: London, UK

Position: Executive, Impact Investing at Palladium

Tenure in current role: 2 years (3 with Palladium)

 

Roberta, please tell us a bit about your background.

My background is in traditional finance. After graduating in finance from Bocconi University in Italy, I built my technical foundation at Barclays Capital and PwC in Milan. After 3 years in these roles, I moved to the Valuation team of Duff & Phelps in London so I could gain international project experience while also living in an international city with an entirely different culture to my own. There, I joined a small, entrepreneurial team supporting the company’s entrance into the Spanish and LATAM markets.

How did you go about changing your career path from traditional finance to international development and what was your motivation?

London exposed me to charities and I started volunteering in 2012, initially with children and then with the elderly. However, due to job constraints and travelling for work, I could only dedicate a limited amount of time to helping others. Further, during my visits to corporate clients in Mexico, the inequality pervasive throughout the streets of Mexico City struck me. At that point, I realized it was time to incorporate social purpose into my career and have a positive impact on other people’s lives in developing countries. Driven by this passion towards social and economic development, I transitioned my career and joined the commercial management group of an international development company, Palladium. There, I was able to leverage my financial skills to help to advance developing economies and improve people’s lives. I initially supported local teams—who were delivering donor-funded programmes across Africa—with their financial management, including forecasting, financial analysis and modelling. I soon learned that Palladium was going to start an Impact Investment unit, which I thought was the perfect role for my skill set. Since the inception of Palladium’s Impact Investments Team, I supported the Director of Impact Investments in developing the strategy for Palladium’s impact investment proposition, while still working in the commercial management group (working in both roles simultaneously). Taking the initiative to support her at that point in time gave me the opportunity to model key scenarios, test and update the strategy, based on in-country meetings with entrepreneurs and co-investors, and applying best practices. Thanks to my experience and network with the international development teams across Palladium, I was able to bridge the worlds of development and investment.

Can you tell us a bit more about Palladium?

Palladium works with corporations, governments, foundations, investors, communities and the civil society to formulate strategies and implement solutions that generate social, environmental and financial benefits. Our work ranges from economic growth, environment and health to impact investing, governance and logistics.

Palladium Impact Investments’ team has embarked on the incubation of an investible pipeline, which responds to the need for capital not widely available in West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana, linked to Palladium’s strong operational footprint built from its internal aid contractor business. The mandate is to deploy some of Palladium’s own balance sheet on a direct investment basis alongside third-party investors with ticket sizes – from US$500,000 to US$2m – into scalable ventures, to achieve financial and social returns. Building the impact investing ecosystem and working with other aligned co-investors, Palladium leverages its ability to originate, structure and execute investments to support a growing track record, inspiring confidence as a potential manager of 3rd party capital in emerging markets.

Could you describe your role in a nutshell?

Being part of a small team, my role is quite diverse and it gives me first-hand experience across various disciplines: interacting with international development programmes as well as co-investors for deal origination, assessing opportunities, financial analysis and modelling, as well as monitoring and evaluating the social impact. In particular, we’ve collaborated with Palladium’s M&E experts in developing an integrated approach to social impact measurement which draws upon concepts and frameworks from the field of evaluation adapted to the investment process. The focus embodies the principles of available, cost effective and useful data and seeks to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into our investment process and at the same time reconciles with industry adopted IRIS metrics.

Why would you advise someone to join the impact investing space now?

This is a great time to join the impact investing space. The sector is growing and needs quality, skilled finance individuals with experience from the corporate world, willing to commit to creating social impact and together trying to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

What would you say are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry?

The biggest challenge I foresee in the industry is the alignment of co-investors along the spectrum of impact investing. There is a clear need for collaboration of different players to achieve solutions to social and environmental challenges; the key will be to identify and define roles to achieve such common goal. There are enormous opportunities to shape it and build the ecosystem.

Any parting of advice to the potential new joiners?

Take the time to decide what you want, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and act – speak out. During my career at Palladium, when the Director of Impact Investments was hired, I decided to seek the opportunity and prove my abilities. Volunteering is extremely helpful to start understanding what interests you, as well as signing up to sector newsletters and attending events.