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Driving Deals and Pioneering Change

Claire Alvarez makes NW Business Insider’s Professional Power List.

This year marked the publication of the inaugural North West Insider Professional Power List; a ranking of the 30 most influential and visible figures in accountancy, law and finance in the region. We are delighted to see that Claire Alvarez, a Private Equity Director in our Manchester office, was amongst the list of participants.

Monday 8th March is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. To mark this occasion, we reflect on Claire’s exceptional work in the boardroom and as a voice for female empowerment, encouraging more women to enter careers in corporate finance. Here are our highlights.

Harnessing the North West’s economic potential

So, what does it take to make the Power List?

Integrity, drive and exceptional deals. In a regional market that’s notoriously one of the most active in Europe, to be featured as one of the region’s most influential figures, and to be one of only four women identified, is testament to Claire’s business acumen. These are figures that are transforming the North West scene.

Known in the industry for her role in establishing Foresight as one of the most active players in the regional lower-mid market private equity sector, Claire manages SME investments across the North West of England and has been instrumental in the 16 deals that Foresight has completed in the region in the last four years.

Claire’s drive to enable entrepreneurs to fulfil their potential and identify, approach, and appoint sector leaders onto Company boards to support their scale-ups translates to a phenomenal track-record. Past successes include the appointment of Steve Caunce to work with the management team at Hedges Direct and Karen Jones, founder of Café Rouge to work with Mowgli’s founder, Nisha Katona.

Claire adds: “Our strategy is delivering both attractive economic returns and broader long-term benefits for regional communities. Over 591 sustainable and quality jobs have been created in the region, and as businesses-scale up, it catalyses further job creation and the economy can thrive.”

While supporting the portfolio through the COVID-19 pandemic was a priority in 2020, the pandemic didn’t force a hiatus in deals. Albeit they now take place in 'virtual’ boardrooms. Claire and the team have remained active and in the last twelve months Foresight has completed three new deals and one bolt-on deal in the region, including a £4 million investment into M.R. Machine Knives.  The team has also completed two successful exits averaging a 6x return. The sale of Clubhouse Golf in March 2020, which generated a return of 6.1x, and the recent sale of Hedges Direct delivering a 5.6x return, have seen £44.1 million returned to Foresight Regional Investment Fund LP.

Addressing the female funding gap and shaping industry

Alongside driving deals in the North West, Claire works with two groups, Fund Her North and the 6% Club, which are aimed at promoting diversity and removing barriers for women in finance and entrepreneurship.

For female entrepreneurs looking to secure funding, the environment can remain a challenge. Figures published in the British Business Bank’s 2019 UK VC & Female Founders report highlighted that the total approved funding for companies with an all-female senior management team was just £13.7 million. The comparative figure, for all-male teams, was £216.6 million [2]. There is a clear, and significant, funding gap.

FundHer North, a collective of 28 women in finance aiming to empower female founders, tackles the many barriers women face in accessing investment or navigating the complex investment landscape.

Meanwhile, the 6% Club tackles gender inequality at the other end of the females in finance spectrum and aims to drive diversity in deal-making. The name of the group being a not-so-tacit, important, reminder of the serious gender disparities that exist in the Private Equity space. Only 6% of roles in the deals space are currently held by women. This group aims to help increase this proportion through jargon busting and information sharing.

As one of the few senior female leaders in her sector, Claire is committed to challenging the female funding gap in the SME space, which we are delighted to see reflected in our portfolio.

Commenting on this Claire shares: “We are proud to support fantastic female-founded businesses in the region that need more capital. A total of 35% of the companies [in the Fund] are female-founded or led, which is higher than the national average.

After 18 years in the financial services industry I’m acutely aware that, often, it’s a very challenging environment for female entrepreneurs and female professionals. What’s encouraging to me is the momentum behind conversations of gender equality and female empowerment in the workplace. Mindsets are changing. Where ESG is increasingly a hygiene factor for companies, many businesses are committing to improving diversity.”

There are a lot of inspirational women that we work with; women that are shaping the future. We’re delighted to be able to celebrate Claire’s achievements and share this recent success.

[2]Data covered 01/01/2007 – 18/04/2018. https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/British-Business-Bank-UK-Venture-Capital-and-Female-Founders-Report.pdf