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28 January 2014

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Leading The North West Fund in the direction of success...

As the largest fund of its type in the UK and one of the largest in Europe, The £155 million North West Fund is certainly something for the region to be proud of. After a slow start in the early stages of the investment cycle, The Fund has just completed two strong consecutive years, investing £32 million in 2012 and £36 million in 2013.

With an investment expectation of £41 million for 2014 and in anticipation of passing the £100 million investment milestone towards the middle of this year, we would like to introduce the senior board responsible for the strategic decision making, performance management and governance of The North West Fund.   

As well as our teams of experienced fund managers working on each of our sub-funds, The North West Fund is managed by a small executive management team, which in turn is led by an independent board with a non-executive chairman.

The combined experience of the board has been a major driver in the success of The North West Fund throughout this programme and will play a key part in its plans for the 2014/2020 Programme. We spoke to the board members about their individual roles, experience and knowledge of business in the North West...


Board Malcolm"SMEs are the lifeblood of the North West's economy" according to Malcolm Edge, Chairman of the board. Having previously been one of two Vice Chairmen of KPMG in the UK, Malcolm had held various management roles within KPMG and also sat on its UK and European Boards.

As an experienced tax partner he has worked with many different businesses, ranging from listed plc's to smaller entrepreneurial businesses. He said, "Our aim at The North West Fund, is to create a sustainable legacy fund, realising more money to be reinvested for the benefit of the region. We are looking to create jobs and growth in the economy - each investment is essentially an acorn which will create the oak trees of the future." 

Board Mike 1Michael Prince brings legal experience and knowledge to the board, as a qualified solicitor, he built up his career working with companies such as 3i plc and DLA Piper. Michael currently holds non-executive and advisory positions at Solerox Ltd and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Michael believes that confidence is the catalyst for growth in the region, he said, "We have to create new businesses and grow them very fast. When The Fund first launched, business confidence was low which is part of the reason why The North West Fund faced a slow beginning. As confidence in the markets has increased, we have started to see growth across the region."

Board RodThe North West Fund also benefits from the experience of recently retired chairman of the economic development body The Mersey Partnership (TMP), Rod Holmes. Having become chairman of TMP in 2008, Rod oversaw its merger into the region's Local Enterprise Partnership in 2012. 

Before his time with TMP, Rod was responsible for delivering Grosvenor's Liverpool One development and supported the Liverpool City Region in its winning bid to become European Capital of Culture 2008. As well as The Fund, Rod is a non-executive director of the new Liverpool Everyman theatre and of the Mersey Gateway bridge and brings to the board a wealth of experience about business in the Merseyside area in particular.

Rod said, "We are in the business of growing the economy and we believe the North
West has the potential for very strong growth" adding, that the selective nature of the investments and the strict eligibility criteria are producing effective growth - high value and urgent results, "Our fund managers are able to be proactive, not reactive like the banks, we don't wait for businesses to knock at our door."  

Board CliveClive Brook, a qualified accountant and a former Corporate Finance Partner at PKF in Manchester, was involved in the set up and creation of The North West Fund. Clive provides background knowledge and experience from both the establishment of this fund and previous public sector venture capital funds. 

With over 30 years of venture capital experience, including his work as a Director of 3i plc, Clive has seen many recessions but he believes 'funders of last resort' like The North West Fund are here to help businesses out-grow the down-turn. He said, "We help SMEs from a very early stage where other funders may wait for the business to become more established. Our fund managers are looking to see solid business ideas, with strong plans to back them up and a clear demand for the product or service.  Although we have restrictions on the type of businesses we can invest in, we are often able to take bigger risks than other investors."

Board RoryRory Earley provides The North West Fund with both public sector knowledge and hands-on investment experience as CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Capital for Enterprise.  Prior to this appointment he spent four years advising the UK Government on the development and implementation of its venture capital programmes.  Previously he was Senior Investment Manager at Westport Private Equity Ltd, designing and investing in venture capital funds around the world.

Rory has been responsible for developing and implementing the UK Government's first interventions in venture capital funds in the 1990s and believes that now more than ever there is a need for government support for business finance, "In the current economic climate businesses need finance to stimulate growth, not only in the North West but across the country. It is very rewarding to be part of the team, delivering The North West Fund and watching the entrepreneurs of the North West build successful businesses." 

The focus of the board and the executive team will continue to be, ensuring that our fund managers are making sound investments into the right SMEs, supporting entrepreneurs and inspiring them to grow their businesses to their full potential while creating a strong and sustainable legacy fund for the North West region.

As the start of the next programme (2014-2020) is fast approaching, we will be working closely with each of the Local Enterprise Partnerships as they put in place their own plans to successfully deliver their allocations of business finance. We will also continue to build on our strong links with North West intermediaries and our local banking partnerships. Our remit is to provide gap funding and this allows us to work with banks and private investors to support businesses in their growth aspirations.

As the largest fund of its kind in the UK, we are responsible for building a successful investment fund for the region, creating and safeguarding much needed employment and driving the economy of the North West forward.


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