Supporting female founder initiatives across the UK & Ireland

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Annual report 2020

Investment as it should be

A different way forward in equity investing

Executive Chair’s statement

We faced a test and proved our mettle

BGF’s excellent performance during the pandemic demonstrates the strength of our diversified model and the resilience of the entrepreneurs we exist to support.

BGF was set up in 2011, in the wake of the global financial crisis. Banks were then being mandated to perform stress tests to ensure they could survive another financial implosion. Fast forward to today and we have just lived through an extraordinary year in which the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the economy upside down. For a firm like ours, which invests in a wide range of small and mid-sized companies, 2020 was the ultimate stress test.

Executive Chair: Stephen Welton
Founded BGF: 2011

We’ve gone through what we hope will be a once-in-a-generation event, and learned that with the will, the ingenuity and the right allocation of capital, we can achieve amazing things.


An industrious year

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, BGF averaged more than one new investment a week in 2020. We invested a total of £384 million during the year, of which £262 million went into new companies across a range of sectors, including life sciences, e-commerce, IT services and more. We provided £122 million of follow-on funding to existing portfolio businesses. Twenty-eight exits generated returns of £222 million.

We have learned a lot from the pandemic – about resilience, agility and the power of acting together. I’m confident that in the years ahead BGF and the growth economy we exist to support will not only survive but thrive.

Stephen Welton Executive Chairman
£ 384 m

Invested in 2020

(£262m of new investment and £122m of follow-on funding)


Companies backed

£ 222 m

Returned upon exit



£ 2.25 bn

Portfolio net asset value

View from the Chief Investment Officer

Operating in all weathers

Flexibility and a long-term approach helped us continue to complete deals during lockdown, when others in the market were postponing transactions. The start of 2021 suggests dealflow will be even stronger in the year ahead.

When we were putting together last year’s annual report, few of us suspected that Covid-19 would have such a huge, long-lasting impact on our lives. As Stephen writes (above), BGF is proud that our model stood up under pressure, allowing us to continue investing at an average pace of one new investment a week, despite the upheaval of lockdowns and other challenges. I’m going to talk about how we managed to sustain that high frequency of deal-making in the face of all the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.

Chief Investment Officer: Andy Gregory

Because we take a long-term approach to investing, we were able to see past the shortterm challenges affecting some of the sectors most impacted by Covid-19.

At a glance

Supporting business since 2011

Born out of the global financial crisis, BGF was founded in 2011 by five shareholders: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and Standard Chartered, which collectively provided £2.5 billion to invest in small and mid-sized businesses. We have now invested in excess of this sum and are reinvesting the proceeds of more than 100 successful exits. BGF in Ireland is backed by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.


Offices in the UK and Ireland

  • Portfolio companies
  • BGF regional offices
74 %

Of capital invested outside London


Companies backed



£ 832 m

Proceeds from exits

Our business model

How we invest

Responsible business

Applying ESG principles in all our activities

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are crucial to BGF’s investment philosophy.

BGF recognises that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors play a crucial role in determining the value of investments and should be considered alongside purely financial considerations when assessing new investments or
working with investee companies.

In 2020, BGF became a signatory to the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), an initiative backed by the United Nations which calls for the integration of ESG principles in investing. As a signatory, we seek to uphold the initiative’s six principles, which include pushing for better disclosure of ESG matters and aspiring to be “active owners” of the investments we manage.

Sustainability at BGF

Measuring our environmental footprint


We estimate that BGF produced 152 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2020. Electricity use at our offices in the UK and Ireland accounted for about 102 tonnes, gas for about 19 tonnes and transport for about 31 tonnes. The transport figure is based on data from our travel provider for train, airfare and hotel bookings, combined with car mileage claims based on an average petrol fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon. (Travel by taxi is not included.)

Waste management

We aim to ensure no waste ends up in landfill and work with landlords and waste management companies to process waste efficiently and with minimal environmental impact. In 2021 we will implement a quarterly report on waste management data.

Case study


CEO: Paul Hayes
Company Description: Clothes retailer
Location: Cornwall
Invested: 2018

Sustainable style

Starting from a single shop in Penzance, Seasalt has grown into one of Cornwall’s biggest employers with a nationwide chain of stores selling beautiful and practical clothing inspired by the Cornish landscape and artistic heritage. The company is committed to sustainable practices, having gained Soil Association certification for its use of organic cotton as long ago as 2005. It now aims to source nearly all its materials from responsible producers, in line with initiatives such as the Global Organic Textile Standard and the Responsible Wool Standard.

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