Big Society Capital has appointed Scope’s former finance director to the newly-created role of social sector leader, to strengthen its engagement with the charity and social enterprise sector.
Rabindrakumar led the establishment of one of Scope’s first social investment products - its listed bond programme in October 2011. She previously worked in a range of finance roles in the voluntary sector, including at Cancer Research UK and Plan International.
Speaking exclusively to civilsociety.co.uk, Rabindrakumar said her remit will be to engage with the civil society sector to strengthen its relationship with Big Society Capital.
“I think it’s really important that Big Society Capital and our intermediary partners are listening to the issues of the sector. My role will enable Big Society Capital to bring frontline issues into the heart of its decision-making.”
She said her role will also see her promoting awareness and understanding of what social investment is for the civil society sector. “I think a lot of the sector feels quite detached from this agenda,” she says.
There have been criticisms from frontline organisations that Big Society Capital and other social investors don’t sufficiently consider the views and needs of charities and social enterprises.
But Rabindrakumar disagrees: “I think that Big Society Capital has been working with the sector, consulting with them and touching base with them on a number of issues.
“My role is about getting a more consistent day-to-day ethos in the place.”
Jeremy Rogers, Big Society Capital’s new chief investment officer, added: “It’s been quite difficult for us as we are quite new. If you look at the organisation over the past six months there has been a clear message that there is a need for unsecured lending. So they are clearly responding and listening. Geetha’s role is part of helping us bring that along.”
Rogers, who has a career background in JP Morgan, Big Issue Invest and Praxient Capital, revealed that Big Society Capital hopes to launch two unsecured loan funds by the end of the year.
In the first few months of her role, Rabindrakumar is keen to build relationships with sector groups as soon as possible, including different-sized organisations, and different subsectors; to work out their investment needs and what sort of products they need.
She said she hopes to engage with early adopters of social investment to learn lessons and feed this back into Big Society Capital.
Coming from a charity, she is aware of many of the concerns from frontline organisations about social investment, such as its cost and accessibility. “I recognise the issues in terms of getting the right social investment product to an organisation. It’s also important to recognise that social investment is not for everyone – the awareness-raising piece of work is to be clear about that.
“Scope was fortunate in terms of its bond that it was relatively low cost for the complex programme as we had a lot of pro-bono support from investment firms. It is early days so social investment products are few and bespoke and costs are high; we anticipate that to come down as the market develops."
As part of her role Rabindrakumar will sit on Big Society Capital’s investment committee.