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Meet the Oxford Capital Team – Mark Bower-Easton, Manager, Private Client & Family Office

1. What’s a typical day like for you at Oxford Capital?

The great thing about my role is that there’s no such thing as a typical day. Once I have successfully navigated the infamous Oxford rush hour traffic and arrived at the office, I will usually start my day by answering any email enquiries that have come in from existing or potential investors overnight. The rest of my day is then focused on meeting with existing or prospective investors, with the occasional investment team meeting, where we review potential investment opportunities.


2. Can you tell us a bit more about your role and your background prior to joining Oxford Capital?

I manage the Private Client and Family Office side of our business. The main focus of my role is fundraising for both the Oxford Capital Growth EIS, and the Co-Investor Circle. I speak to potential clients on a daily basis and have ongoing dialogue with existing investors. The latter is particularly important – there is so much economic uncertainty around at present, that investors really need to be kept updated as much as possible. Prior to joining Oxford Capital in March 2021, I spent the best part of a decade as a Partner at a Wealth Management company. I advised on a lot of EIS investments over the years, so joining Oxford Capital seemed a natural fit. My previous experience also highlighted the importance of ongoing relationships, and making the investor experience as positive and interactive as possible.


3. How do you support investors in understanding the benefits of EIS investing as part of a diversified portfolio?

There are many benefits to investing into an EIS. You’re getting access to some of the most exciting early-stage companies the UK has to offer, and on top of that you’re also benefitting from some of the most generous tax reliefs available to investors anywhere on the globe. At Oxford Capital we have done a lot of work over the past 18 months or so to help inform potential and existing investors on how an EIS can benefit an existing investment portfolio – from helping crystallise gains in an asset that would ordinarily lead to a large CGT liability, which can be deferred indefinitely via an EIS, to estate planning, by taking advantage of the fact that the underlying assets of an EIS qualify for Business Relief after two years, and therefore fall outside of an investors estate for IHT purposes, assuming the shares are still held upon death.


4. Given the current economic environment what are the challenges investors are facing?

For those that are lucky enough to still be in a position to invest, I would say the main challenge will be finding an asset class that will provide them with the best opportunity to generate a return that will keep pace with inflation. With inflation hitting double digits, erosion of spending power is a big issue, and I’m not convinced that more traditional asset classes will be able to achieve the desired returns. Alternatives, such as EIS offer the opportunity for significant growth. However, there’s also a significant degree of risk, and lack of liquidity for at least 5 years, so these types of investment won’t be for everyone.


5. Which of our portfolio companies is your favourite and why?

It’s a tough question to answer, as there are a number that I really like. However, if I had to choose one it would be Redsift. Redsift is a company that focuses on the digital security of major institutions – a really important areas given the increasing number of cyberattacks that are being carried out. It’s a company that is really going places – and it’s also a company that perfectly illustrates how our investment strategy works in practice. Redsift first joined our portfolio in 2016, and we have backed them in every funding round since. At the end of 2021 they embarked on a new, oversubscribed round, which enabled us to take some money off the table and return cash to our earliest investors. Those who invested in to Redsift at seed stage benefitted from us electing to sell 50% of their holding, which provided up to an 8.5x gross return.


6. What most interests you about working with early-stage companies and the processes behind this?

I think it’s the emotional involvement you get from working with early-stage companies. Our objectives are aligned with those of the companies we invest in, and those investors who entrust their cash to us. It’s in everyone’s best interests for the companies we decide to add to our portfolio to thrive. I don’t think any other form of investment gives you the degree of involvement you get from early-stage VC deals, and it’s really rewarding to see how the investments into the businesses are put to use, and it’s great to see them grow. It’s also a constant learning process – some companies thrive, and you can see first-hand the reasons why, but on the flip side, some will fail, and although it’s disappointment when it happens, they represent opportunities for us to learn from.

 Quickfire round

Favourite pastime/hobby – Playing and watching cricket and tennis.

Favourite holiday destination –  Argentina.

Favourite meal – Fillet Steak.

Favourite film/TV show – The West Wing.

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