DBS and Heritas Capital announce successful first close of the Asia Impact First Fund with over USD 20 million raised

Singapore, Regional.15 Mar 2023

DBS is anchor investor with USD 10 million commitment

Other investors include Tsao Family Office, IMC Group and other leaders in impact-first investing and venture philanthropy

DBS Foundation conceived of the AIFF to enable others to participate in plugging the funding gap for social enterprises, and serves as the fund’s knowledge partner

Singapore, Regional, 15 Mar 2023 - DBS and Heritas Capital today announced the successful first close of the Asia Impact First Fund (AIFF), which was launched last August with an investment mandate to support innovative and high-growth social enterprises in the region. The fund has raised over USD 20 million – led by anchor investor DBS, which committed USD 10 million, and like-minded impact-focused family offices, foundations, corporates and high-net-worth individuals including Tsao Family Office, IMC Group, Ishk Tolaram Foundation, ANF Family Office, Mr Pang Sze Khai (Chairman of Octava Foundation and Octava Pte Ltd), and others.

An ‘impact-first’ approach to supporting social enterprises

While working with social enterprises in Asia over the years, DBS Foundation found that the lack of financing options often hindered their growth. It then started exploring solutions to address the funding gap, and at the same time, foster an ecosystem of like-minded investors to help high-potential social enterprises to scale. This led to DBS Foundation’s partnership with Heritas Capital, which designed the AIFF.

The AIFF has a target fund size of USD 50 million and expects to provide catalytic growth capital to 10 to 15 social enterprises in Asia. These social enterprises would have clearly demonstrated social and/or environmental impact in the fund’s impact themes – “Improving Lives and Livelihoods” and “Protecting the Environment” – as well as viable business growth plans to scale their double bottom-line of impact and profitability.

Guided by an impact-first philosophy, the AIFF views returns not only through the lens of financial gain, but also prioritises long-term impact outcomes. This allows the fund to take a patient stance when investing in social enterprises, as compared to traditional financing options which often prioritise short-term profitability metrices. Such patient catalytic capital is key in enabling social enterprises to thrive, considering that businesses pursuing dual bottom-lines require experimentation to develop innovative solutions, and often require a longer time-horizon to fulfil their potential. In a 2019[1] study by the World Economic Forum, close to half of the social enterprises surveyed cited the lack of consistent access to capital as the primary barrier to scaling their company.

DBS’ anchor investment in the AIFF reflects its commitment to supporting social enterprises that are tackling pertinent social and environmental issues in Asia, and marks the latest in the bank’s longstanding efforts to galvanise capital towards supporting the growth of this space. Since the DBS Foundation’s establishment in 2014, the foundation has provided more than 100 high-potential social enterprises in the region with holistic support aimed at empowering them to grow and scale – this includes disbursing more than SGD 13 million in grant funding to date; providing preferential banking packages; and availing access to a suite of non-financial support measures including capacity-building, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

Karen Ngui, DBS Strategic Marketing and Communications and Board Member of DBS Foundation, said, “As a purpose-driven organisation, we are guided by our commitment to help pave the way towards a better world for generations today and tomorrow. Businesses for impact, which pursue a dual bottom-line of profit and impact and are addressing key societal gaps from a systemic level, play an increasingly important role in this. There’s a heightened need to cultivate a strong ecosystem to support their growth – and through the AIFF, we hope to bring together like-minded partners who share our desire to empower more of these innovative and meaningful businesses, and enable them to thrive, scale, and go on to create greater positive impact.”

With more of DBS Private Bank’s clients expressing interest in being a force for good in society and a willingness to engage in venture philanthropy, the bank also sees the AIFF as a means through which they can contribute impact capital and take an active role in shaping the direction of their giving. This is especially so with the emergence of next-generation business owners and impact investors, many of whom are actively seeking out giving and investment opportunities that align with their values and have a positive impact on society.

“Through AIFF, clients can have peace of mind that their money is going towards a carefully curated and stringent selection of social enterprises that will make the best of it to drive real impact, for the betterment of society,” said Lee Woon Shiu, Group Head of Wealth Planning, Family Office and Insurance Solutions at DBS Private Bank and DBS Foundation Board Member.

The AIFF is managed by Singapore-based impact investment platform Heritas Capital, and is availed to accredited investors. It aims to achieve capital preservation and/or appreciation with a target internal rate of return of 5 to 10%. DBS Foundation serves as its knowledge partner, providing in-depth expertise, a strong track record, and deep networks in its capacity as a leading champion in Asia’s social entrepreneurship scene. The AIFF will also benefit from the deep expertise of its Impact Advisory Panel, which comprise of the following advisors:

  • Helge Muenkel, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at DBS Bank;
  • Dr Mary Ann Tsao, Chairwoman and Founding Director of the Tsao Foundation;
  • Caroline Seow, Co-Founder and Director at B Lab Singapore; and
  • Dr Loke Wai Chiong, Clinical Director and Program Lead at MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation

Chik Wai Chiew, CEO and Executive Director at Heritas Capital, said: “Heritas Capital is pleased to launch and deploy the AIFF, amongst the first of its kind within the impact investment space. We are grateful to like-minded investors such as DBS and the other founding members of the AIFF, who seek to co-create a new impact investment category which prioritises impact over profit. We look forward to raising awareness and shifting consciousness within societies across Asia towards addressing the funding gaps for fast-growing social enterprises that offer innovative solutions for enhancing livelihoods of disadvantaged communities and protecting the environment.”

Quotes from select AIFF first close investors

  • “IMC Group as a fourth-generation family business has continually stayed relevant to stakeholders, adding value to humanity and service well-being of life while creating wealth at the same time. We are pleased to co-anchor Heritas’ Asia Impact First Fund for backing leading social enterprises as we further shift consciousness in business to mindfully improve livelihoods and protect the environment in a new era of impact-first investing.’” – Mr Frederick Chavalit Tsao, Chairman, IMC Group
  • “Tsao Family Office is glad to support the Asia Impact First Fund, an impact-first fund investing to help scale social enterprises that are contributing to the benefit of society and the environment across Asia.” – Bryan Goh, CEO of Tsao Family Office
  • “Through our experience in Impact Investment over the years, we have interacted with many social entrepreneurs, and recognise their need for more patient catalytic capital to achieve their full potential. This is where we see impact-first investing coming in, and we are glad to support and work with Asia Impact First Fund whose aim is to help and support social enterprises in their growth.” – Mr Albert Li and Mr Alvin Li, ANF Family Office
  • “We have observed that there is a funding gap for social enterprises looking to scale, which limits the size of the meaningful work that they do. With the Asia Impact First Fund, I look forward to working alongside with like-minded impact-first investors and venture philanthropists across Asia to support these enterprises.” – Mr Pang Sze Khai, Chairman of Octava Foundation and Octava Pte Ltd
  • "At Ishk Tolaram, being impact-driven and collaborative are core to our ethos. This is why we are supporting Asia Impact First Fund in its effort to provide patient catalytic funding to social enterprises which, we have found, is crucial to enabling them to move beyond grant and seed stage capital and grow and scale their impact." – Divya Patel, Chief Operating Officer at Ishk Tolaram Foundation
  • “My interest in philanthropy is very aligned with this new way of giving back to society and the environment through the Asia Impact First Fund, which takes a fresh approach of investing in and growing social enterprises’ capacity to do good in a financially self-sustaining way,” – Ms Varen Chng, C Plus V Foundation

[1] Source: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/07/this-is-what-holds-social-entrepreneurs-back/


About DBS
DBS is a leading financial services group in Asia with a presence in 19 markets. Headquartered and listed in Singapore, DBS is in the three key Asian axes of growth: Greater China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. The bank's "AA-" and "Aa1" credit ratings are among the highest in the world.

Recognised for its global leadership, DBS has been named “World’s Best Bank” by Global Finance, “World’s Best Bank” by Euromoney and “Global Bank of the Year” by The Banker. The bank is at the forefront of leveraging digital technology to shape the future of banking, having been named “World’s Best Digital Bank” by Euromoney and the world’s “Most Innovative in Digital Banking” by The Banker. In addition, DBS has been accorded the “Safest Bank in Asia“ award by Global Finance for 14 consecutive years from 2009 to 2022.

DBS provides a full range of services in consumer, SME and corporate banking. As a bank born and bred in Asia, DBS understands the intricacies of doing business in the region’s most dynamic markets.

DBS is committed to building lasting relationships with customers, as it banks the Asian way. Through the DBS Foundation, the bank creates impact beyond banking by supporting social enterprises: businesses with a double bottom-line of profit and social and/or environmental impact. DBS Foundation also gives back to society in various ways, including equipping communities with future-ready skills and building food resilience.

With its extensive network of operations in Asia and emphasis on engaging and empowering its staff, DBS presents exciting career opportunities. For more information, please visit www.dbs.com.

About DBS Foundation
The DBS Foundation is committed to uplifting lives and livelihoods by igniting change in businesses and communities.

Since 2014, the DBS Foundation has been championing social enterprises in Asia, businesses that are for profit, and impact. The Business for Impact chapter now catalyses the growth of innovative, purpose-driven businesses, including SMEs, designed to address pressing issues facing our planet and society.

In 2022, the DBS Foundation raised the bar with the formation of a new Community Impact chapter, to equip the underserved with digital and financial literacy skills to face the future with confidence, and enable communities to be more food secure and resilient.

Our vision is to spark collective action, together with our partners and DBS People of Purpose, to help build a better world for generations today and tomorrow.

For more information, please visit: www.dbs.com/dbsfoundation.

About Heritas Capital
Heritas Capital is a Singapore-based private equity and venture capital investment firm, building a multi-fund impact investment platform that invests in companies across the healthcare, education, environment, and technology sectors. Guided by its investment philosophy, “Invest with Purpose, Impact Across Generations”, Heritas Capital backs innovative companies to become emerging champions and drive inclusive growth that improves the lives of local communities and the environment while delivering sustainable returns to investors. Heritas Capital is a Licensed Fund Management Company regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, serving only accredited investors and institutional investors.