Ethex CEO Lisa Ashford is pioneering ethical investing in the UK and emerging markets.
Lisa Ashford is an alumna of Oxford Saïd’s Diploma in Financial Strategy, the CEO of Ethex, a sustainable investment platform that has raised over £62m for companies with a social purpose and a Board Director of Lendahand Ethex – a retail impact investing platform that has raised over £2 million in just 5 months, providing more than 14,000 families with affordable clean energy access in Africa.
Lisa’s passion for ethical investment was sparked during her Master’s degree in environmental technology, during which she travelled to Zambia to work on a rural electrification project. Seeing the impact of that work left her feeling inspired: ‘It was an experience that stayed with me, and I wanted to do more, but when I got back home I realised I needed to get more commercial experience,’ she said.
In the preceding years, Lisa played an instrumental role in setting up an advanced market for trading electricity while working for the OM group, (now part of NasdaqOMX) in a role that coincided with the deregulation of the UK’s energy markets.
Lisa subsequently went on to work in leadership positions at EcoSecurities, one of the leading providers of carbon finance for low carbon projects, before becoming an independent consultant. Finding herself with the freedom to choose her hours of work, she began to look into options for further education.
‘Despite working most of my career in finance, all my knowledge till that point I had picked up on the job. I’d always wanted to do an MBA, and the diploma at Oxford Saïd provided a perfect opportunity to take my knowledge of finance and strategy to the next level without committing to a full year of study.’
‘When I started the diploma I was probably the only person who wasn’t financially trained from a traditional accounting perspective,’ she continued. ‘The lecturers were excellent and it really helped me to see things in a more structured way. The network of people I met was also a great benefit – four years later we’re all still in good communication, and everyone is supportive of each other’s progress.’
It was during the diploma that Lisa met Ethex founder Jamie Hartzell, one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs responsible for launching successful brands such as the Ethical Property Company, and chair of Divine Chocolate. ‘I had been looking for companies around Oxford that were doing things differently and in 2013 Ethex were very much seen as being innovators in the ethical investing space,' said Lisa. 'When the opportunity to join them arose I jumped at the chance. Five years later, having raised more than £62 million from over 13,000 socially motivated investors to help more than 60 socially enterprises and mission driven businesses, I think we can truly say we’re delivering on our vision of making money do good.’
Lisa is now CEO of Ethex as well as Director of a joint venture Lendahand Ethex, which recently launched an initiative called Energise Africa. Energise Africa enables UK investors to invest in solar businesses, bringing affordable clean energy and economic opportunities to families whilst aiming to generate a 4 – 6 % annual return for investors.
‘It’s great to be part of both organisations as Ethex and Energise Africa share a common goal of wanting to rapidly scale and grow the positive investing / ethical investing market. What was once considered to be fairly niche in 2013 is definitely moving into the mainstream, and according to our latest research 19.5 million people in the UK are either already involved or want to get involved in positive investing. With more people wanting to take control of their money and invest on the basis of their values and motivations, as well as a financial return, Ethex and Energise Africa are well positioned to help people do this,’ said Lisa.