Kylie Charlton, an alumna of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, recently teamed up with Eric Savage, an alumnus from Harvard’s Kennedy School, to launch Unitus Capital, one of the first financial advisory firms designed to meet the investment needs of social entrepreneurs. Unitus Capital, registered in India and operating initially in south east Asia, grew out of the capital markets group of Unitus Inc., a non-profit organisation that works to alleviate global poverty by increasing access to microfinance.
The aim of Unitus Capital, which has US$5.5 million backing from private investors, is to become a boutique investment bank for social entrepreneurs who are working to improve the lives of those at bottom of the economic pyramid. “I want to transform the investment environment to better serve social entrepreneurs by working with them to ensure they have access to the growth capital they need,” says Kylie, who is Managing Director of the newly-formed organisation.
Unitus Capital will deliver services to microfinance institutions (MFIs) building on the expertise the team has gained from raising more than $30 million for 14 MFIs across six countries over the past four years, and will also be looking for opportunities to work with social entrepreneurs outside microfinance.
Kylie moved to the US to work with Unitus Inc. after graduating from Oxford’s one-year MBA programme in 2004, initially leading its capital markets strategy before going on to form part of the founding team for Unitus Capital. Prior to her MBA, Kylie worked for Citigroup in America and in her home country, Australia. With eleven years of investment banking on her CV, she decided to make a big life change. “I thought: I can stay an investment banker for the rest of my life or apply my finance skills to initiatives aimed at improving the lives of the 40 per cent of the world’s population that lives on less than US$2 per day,” she says.
As part of her Oxford MBA, Charlton did a summer strategic consulting project at the Cape York Institute of Policy and Leadership and this, combined with the Saïd Business School’s elective course in social entrepreneurship, allowed her to see the potential of applying capital markets to solve some of the world’s most challenging social problems.