Virtually the greenest
If there is one transaction that sums up 2020, which is it? Salesforce paying $28bn for employee chat app Slack, as remote working becomes the norm? The former landlord of the health secretary’s local pub winning a £30m contract for Covid medical supplies? No. City Insider would suggest another candidate altogether: this week’s £122m initial public offering of shares in the Downing Renewables & Infrastructure Trust. Not only does it capture this year’s surge in investor enthusiasm for all things environmental, it may also be the first entirely virtual IPO in the Square Mile. Tom Williams, the Downing partner behind the float, said it was all carried out without a single face-to-face meeting with broker N+1 Singer, or any of the participating lawyers, accountants or PRs. Everything was done over video calls from home, and even the prospectus was electronic rather than printed. Given the saving in air miles, taxi miles and postal miles — and the fact Downing’s renewable energy assets can power 90,000 homes for a year — Williams reckons the deal was “the greenest ever”. But while the celebrations were also virtual, they embraced one feature of pre-Covid times. “Drinks ended the way they always do — with everyone falling asleep!” he recalls . . . a tad hazily.
“Too male, pale and stale.” This has long summed up the lack of diversity in City boardrooms. But if change isn’t coming fast enough at the top, it is at least happening at a speedier rate a few floors down. This week, the “10,000 Black Interns Programme” announced that nearly 500 companies have signed up to offer paid work experience to help black people get a start in business — among them HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, Zurich and the big accounting groups. It’s an initiative that was launched by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, a co-founder of pensions advisory group Redington, after he succeeded in placing 100 black interns in the fund management industry earlier this year. In fact, the main challenge has not been convincing companies to take part, it has been convincing candidates. According to Montfort, the PR firm promoting the scheme: “The immediate assumption among young UK black undergraduates was that it had to be a hoax. In a world where there are currently just a handful of black portfolio managers, it was simply beyond belief that 200 asset managers would agree to offer paid, six week internships to black candidates. Only after checks with ‘reliable sources’ — us — did incredulous graduates realise it was real.”
Quiz of the year
Investment consultants MJ Hudson know that private equity dealmakers have had a tough time during the pandemic. Its survey of homeworking video calls revealed they’d endured wilful nose-picking, unmuted flatulence, and unwanted glimpses of erotic art while speaking to investors. So to lift their spirits, MJH’s “marketing elves” have come up with the “Ultimate Festive Invitational Global Championship All Star Quiz Showdown”. Basically, a trivia contest in the style of cheesy US sport broadcasts to decide if the Private Equity Bulls can outplay the Real Estate Super Moths, the Private Debt Fighting Ducks and the, er, Infrastructure and Energy Power Rats. It’s all for a good cause — brain injury charity Headway — and there’s still time to join. The standard of industry knowledge does also not seem too intimidating: in earlier rounds, 20 per cent of participants thought Agilitas was the name of a team on The Apprentice, rather than a private equity firm. Oops!
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