Singaporean bank DBS and Singaporean investment firm Heritas Capital have on Wednesday announced the successful first close of the Asia Impact First Fund (AIFF) with over $20 million raised.

DBS said in a statement that the funding was led by anchor investor DBS, which committed $10 million.

It was also supported by like-minded impact-focused family offices, foundations, corporates and high-net-worth individuals including Tsao Family Office, IMC Group, Ishk Tolaram Foundation, ANF Family Office, Mr Pang Sze Khai (Chairman of Octava Foundation and Octava Pte Ltd), and others.

The fund was launched last August with an investment mandate to support innovative and high-growth social enterprises in the region.

The AIFF has a target fund size of $50 million and expects to provide catalytic growth capital to 10 to 15 social enterprises in Asia.

These social enterprises would have clearly demonstrated social and/or environmental impact in the fund’s impact themes – “Improving Lives and Livelihoods” and “Protecting the Environment” – as well as viable business growth plans to scale their double bottom-line of impact and profitability.

Guided by an impact-first philosophy, the AIFF views returns not only through the lens of financial gain, but also prioritises long-term impact outcomes.

This allows the fund to take a patient stance when investing in social enterprises, as compared to traditional financing options which often prioritise short-term profitability metrices.

Such patient catalytic capital is key in enabling social enterprises to thrive, considering that businesses pursuing dual bottom-lines require experimentation to develop innovative solutions, and often require a longer time-horizon to fulfil their potential.

DBS’ anchor investment in the AIFF reflects its commitment to supporting social enterprises that are tackling pertinent social and environmental issues in Asia, and marks the latest in the bank’s longstanding efforts to galvanise capital towards supporting the growth of this space.

“As a purpose-driven organisation, we are guided by our commitment to help pave the way towards a better world for generations today and tomorrow,” said Karen Ngui, DBS Strategic Marketing and Communications and Board Member of DBS Foundation.

“Businesses for impact, which pursue a dual bottom-line of profit and impact and are addressing key societal gaps from a systemic level, play an increasingly important role in this,

“There’s a heightened need to cultivate a strong ecosystem to support their growth – and through the AIFF, we hope to bring together like-minded partners who share our desire to empower more of these innovative and meaningful businesses, and enable them to thrive, scale, and go on to create greater positive impact,” she added.

With more of DBS Private Bank’s clients expressing interest in being a force for good in society and a willingness to engage in venture philanthropy, the bank also sees the AIFF as a means through which they can contribute impact capital and take an active role in shaping the direction of their giving.

This is especially so with the emergence of next-generation business owners and impact investors, many of whom are actively seeking out giving and investment opportunities that align with their values and have a positive impact on society.

“Through AIFF, clients can have peace of mind that their money is going towards a carefully curated and stringent selection of social enterprises that will make the best of it to drive real impact, for the betterment of society,” said Lee Woon Shiu, Group Head of Wealth Planning, Family Office and Insurance Solutions at DBS Private Bank and DBS Foundation Board Member.

The AIFF is managed by Singapore-based impact investment platform Heritas Capital, and is availed to accredited investors. It aims to achieve capital preservation and/or appreciation with a target internal rate of return of 5 to 10 percent.

DBS Foundation serves as its knowledge partner, providing in-depth expertise, a strong track record, and deep networks in its capacity as a leading champion in Asia’s social entrepreneurship scene.

The AIFF will also benefit from the deep expertise of its Impact Advisory Panel, which comprise of the following advisors: Helge Muenkel, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at DBS Bank; Dr Mary Ann Tsao, Chairwoman and Founding Director of the Tsao Foundation; Caroline Seow, Co-Founder and Director at B Lab Singapore; and Dr Loke Wai Chiong, Clinical Director and Program Lead at MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation.

“Heritas Capital is pleased to launch and deploy the AIFF, amongst the first of its kind within the impact investment space,” said Chik Wai Chiew, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director at Heritas Capital.

“We are grateful to like-minded investors such as DBS and the other founding members of the AIFF, who seek to co-create a new impact investment category which prioritises impact over profit,

“We look forward to raising awareness and shifting consciousness within societies across Asia towards addressing the funding gaps for fast-growing social enterprises that offer innovative solutions for enhancing livelihoods of disadvantaged communities and protecting the environment,” he added.

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