Since its inception in 2009, the LGT Impact Fellowship (called the iCats Program when it began) was created to help LGT Impact and LGT Venture Philanthropy’s portfolio companies bridge talent gaps in their organisations on their way to scaling positive impact. Over the last ten years, we’ve welcomed over 150 motivated Fellows from 32 nationalities and diverse professional backgrounds to the program. As we prepare to welcome the upcoming cohort of LGT Impact Fellows in July 2019, we took some time to reflect on the journey so far and how our work fits into LGT Impact and LGT Venture Philanthropy’s mission to work with innovative social businesses and organizations around the world to create and scale positive impact in society.

Looking back to the foundations

The Princely family of Liechtenstein – which owns and runs LGT Group – has a centuries-old history of philanthropy and social value creation. In 2007, the family decided to consolidate their efforts, which led to the founding of LGT Venture Philanthropy Foundation (LGT VP). LGT VP deploys philanthropic growth capital in a strategic way – with a clear mission, investment approach and dedicated team. It also operates in a data-driven way that allows to measure and understand the impact created by the family’s contributions.

When the Princely family initiated LGT VP, the concepts of social entrepreneurship and impact investing were still nascent, but the family’s buy-in and generous support allowed the team to develop a broad investment thesis across regions, financial instruments, and areas of support. In 2016, the decision was taken to establish a separate entity for profitable impact investments. While LGT VP continues to implement the families philanthropic engagements applying an entrepreneurial approach, LGT Impact was founded to invest in businesses with the potential to generate both attractive financial returns as well as positive social impact.

The need for Human Capital

LGT VP was convinced from the beginning, that financial capital alone was not enough for social impact businesses and organisations to succeed. Despite their strong backgrounds and bold visions, founders in resource-constrained markets struggle to bring on the kind of exceptional talent required to scale their operations and impact to their fullest potential. In fact, according to a Rippleworks report, 63% of entrepreneurs cite an inability to meet their human capital needs as having a “high or critical impact” on their businesses.

The team at LGT Venture Philanthropy saw this as a terrific opportunity to strategically support our portfolio organisations by helping them recruit outstanding and impact-driven business professionals from around the world. Over the course of a one-year program, these professionals would help our organisations in different ways such as thinking through and kickstarting strategic projects, building systems and processes for the organisation, and training and upskilling the local teams. This impact, we hoped, would last well beyond the Fellows’ tenure with their respective organisations. Our portfolio organisations have benefited significantly from this influx of dynamic talent and look forward every year to Fellowship recruitment season.

Enabling business professionals to pursue careers of impact

Besides meeting the needs of our investee organisations, the LGT Impact Fellowship is also an opportunity for business professionals to use their skills to work on some of society’s most pressing challenges around the world while learning firsthand what it’s like to be on the ground in resource-constrained environments. Ever since the inception of the Fellowship, we’ve always been excited by our ability to bring such socially motivated talent from the corporate sector into the social impact ecosystem. Engaging with so many outstanding and dynamic professionals keen to take up this work has been an extraordinarily rewarding experience. In fact, our annual Fellowship kickoff workshops, where we whisk away incoming Fellows to the Swiss Alps for a week of bonding and getting to know each other have come to be one of the highlights of the year for us. There’s just something about the buzz in the air when a handful of smart, dedicated professionals come together and share their passion and motivation for contributing to a more equal society with each other.

As we look back, the LGT Impact Fellowship has come a long way since it started in 2009. Every batch of Fellows brings with it new expertise and energy and adds so much value to our work of creating social impact around the world. If you’d like to be a part of our 2019 cohort, you can learn more about the Fellowship and apply here.