Bain consultant joins N26 as UK General Manager

27 March 2019

A former Bain & Company consultant has been installed as the UK General Manager of a European disruptor bank. Will Sorby will now work to lead N26’s continuing growth in the UK market, which it entered at the end of 2018.

As digital offerings become ever more important for retaining customers, 88% of banks attached importance to working with FinTechs in the future in a recent survey. This is because banks are becoming increasingly concerned with the threat presented by new, digitally capable competitors. One such competitor is N26.

N26 is a German direct bank, headquartered in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 2016, it offers services throughout most of the Eurozone and has also announced plans to expand to the US in early 2019. The bank launched its UK wing in November 2018, and the coming months will see it introduce innovative features such as shared Spaces, allowing customers to share their finances in a new way. With measures like this, the firm hopes to grow its UK presence rapidly throughout this year.

Bain consultant joins N26 as UK General Manager

In order to oversee that task, Will Sorby has been appointed as N26’s UK General Manager. He will now be tasked with leading the bank’s ongoing expansion into the UK market, and is responsible for building the N26 brand from its base of over 2.5 million customers across Europe.

Sorby arrives at N26 from strategy consulting giant Bain & Company, where he was most recently a Consultant. During his two-year stay with the MBB firm, he focused on consumer products, advising companies across Europe on how to navigate a range of commercial and operational challenges. Prior to this, he spent a year as a Strategy Executive with property firm British Land, and also honed extensive corporate finance and strategic expertise from seven years at Morgan Stanley. There, he was latterly Vice President within the group’s investment banking division.

Commenting on his arrival, Valentin Stalf, CEO of N26, said, “Since launching in the UK, we have been overwhelmed by the demand we’ve seen for our fresh approach to banking, with over 1,000 new customers joining us daily since launch. Will’s appointment is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the UK market, and the key role it will play towards our goal of building a bank the world loves to use.”

Will Sorby himself added, “Despite being Europe’s most advanced market for banking products, consumers in the UK remain four times more likely to be aware of mobile-first banks than to use them. There is a clear opportunity for an innovative bank to deliver a better customer experience and I am excited to lead our expansion in the UK as we grow to meet this demand.”


Private equity firms ramp up sustainability focus

19 April 2019

In line with business leaders across the industrial gamut, private equity firms are increasingly on board with sustainability projects. According to a new study, the investment arms for major funds are implementing a number of strategies aimed at supporting sustainable economic development in line with global goals.

While the business world has finally begun to acknowledge the danger of climate change, effective action plans remain difficult to achieve. The Paris Agreement has stipulated a clear target for the decades leading up to 2100, although massively reducing emissions while not crashing the economy could be a tall order.

Businesses that are able to acquire capital can use it to boost productivity and output, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of development. However, some businesses are better able to utilise resources than others, both in terms of their relative productivity, as well as the value of the respective outcomes relative to costs (including environmental harms). Financing can therefore provide an avenue to select businesses that are aligned with various global sustainability goals, while shunning those that drive little or unsustainable social value creation.

Top moves made by investment arms towards responsible investment

Profit has for the longest time been the central criterion for investment decisions. Yet profit at any cost is increasingly seen as creating considerable social harms, while often delivering only marginal value. As a result, the private equity sector, which was initially sluggish to change its ways with regards to sustainability, has started to see the topic as an opportunity as much as a challenge.

A new study from PwC has explored how far sustainability goals have become part of the wider investment strategy for private equity (PE) firms. The report is based on analysis of a survey of 162 firms and includes responses from 145 general partners and 38 limited partners.

Maturing sustainability

Top-line results show that responsible investment has become an issue for 91% of respondents. For 81% of respondents, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) was a board matter at least once a year, while 60% said that they already have implemented measures to address human rights issues. Two-thirds have identified and prioritised Sustainable Development goals that are relevant to their investment segments.

Change in concern and action on climate-related topics over time

While there is increasing concern around key issues, from human rights protections to environmental and biodiversity protection, the study finds there are mismatches between concern and action. For instance, concern among investment vehicles around climate change has increased since 2016.

In terms of risks to the PE firm itself, concern has increased from 46% of respondents in 2016 to 58% in the latest survey. However, the number who have taken action remains far below those concerned, at 9% in 2016 and 20% in 2019. Given the relatively broader scope of investment opportunities, portfolio companies face higher risks – and more concern – from PE professionals, at 83% in the latest survey. However, action is less than half of those concerned, at 31%.

Changing climate

In terms of the climate footprint of the portfolio companies, 77% of respondents state concern in the latest survey. 28% of respondents are taking action through the implementation of measures to mitigate their concerns.

Concern and action taken on ESG issues

In terms of the more pressing issues for emerging responsible investment or ESG issues, governance concern of portfolio companies comes in at number one (92% of respondents), while 60% have taken action on it. Firms have focused on improving awareness – setting up policies and a range of training modules for their professionals around responsible investment decision making. Cybersecurity takes the number two spot, with 89% concerned and 41% implementing strategies to mitigate risks.

Climate risks take the number three spot in terms of concern for portfolio companies (83%), but falls behind in terms of action (31%). Health and safety track records are a key concern at 80% of businesses, with 49% implementing action. Gender imbalance within PE firms themselves ranks at 78%, which is being dealt with by 31%. A recent survey from Oliver Wyman showed that there is gender balance at 13% of GP teams in developed countries.

Biodiversity is also an increasingly pertinent topic, with risks from pollution and chemical use increasingly driving wider systematic risks around environmental outcomes. It featured at number eight on the ranking of most likely global risks for the coming decade, with its impact at number six. As it stands, biodiversity is noted as an issue at 57% of firms, with 15% implementing action.