Disruption, diversity are goals of this fintech venture fund
The fintech venture capital firm Anthemis Group closed its first discretionary fund on Thursday, the $106 million Anthemis Venture Fund I.
The firm, whose previous funding was done off its own balance sheet, has more than $500 million in assets under management it is in the process of deploying for fintech investment.
The venture fund is focused on supporting fintechs in sectors such as corporate and business banking, wealth and asset management, and capital markets. The 21 fintechs that received funding via AVF I include the bank disruptor Tide; insurtech player Qover; Truelayer; and the solar-investment risk management firm kWh Analytics.
Anthemis says it is committed to cultivating change in financial services.
According to co-founder Amy Nauiokas, the entire financial system needs to undergo a massive overhaul as society moves into the digital age, away from the industrial age.
“That starts first and foremost with the kind of technological influence that a lot of the companies and entrepreneurs we’re supporting and seeding are looking at, the base of technology and how to make it more efficient and work better,” she said.
Financial services also needs more diversity, she argues.
“I would love to see companies starting from scratch in financial services that are paying attention immediately to building more diverse workforces,” she said. “Not only is it the best thing we can do for business, but it’s just common sense. The world is so different than it was hundreds of years ago when these banks were first started. It’s not surprising that financial institutions that were started 200 years ago by white men have different needs now; they’re serving a different demographic and market. We need to be smarter about the way we build our companies.”
A more diverse workforce could bring about innovative products, she argued.
“If you’re bringing divergent opinions together, you’re more likely to solve bigger problems,” Nauiokas said. “When we think about issues around financial wellness and the inequalities in our society, which have a lot to do with the way our financial infrastructure is set up, then you need thinkers who are thinking differently than they have in the past.”
When Anthemis evaluates startups, it makes diversity of the company’s management a priority. It deliberately does not have quotas or firm rules about it, Nauiokas said. The firm is open to those willing to change.
“If a company is already focused on diversity and inclusion, they’re going to naturally come into our ecosystem,” she said. “It’s the influence we think we can have on those that aren’t that give us the most excitement and opportunity for change. I don’t believe people are doing this deliberately, I believe it’s 'let’s keep doing same thing over and over' because it works, until somebody challenges you on it. Our job as investors, we have to be the ones that start questioning it. It’s as simple as recognizing when you’re sitting across from founders. How does this play into their corporate strategy, how will they grow divergent thinkers? That question is something we ask every single one of our portfolio companies."
Anthemis also partners with financial institutions on financial wellness initiatives. It has helped firms like MMI, Unicredit and Baloise deploy capital toward financial wellness fintechs.