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IGNITING THE SPARK with Clare Nicholls, Invenio Corporate Finance

David Farquharson

Invenio Corporate Finance is an independent, boutique investment bank with a fresh and tailored approach to corporate transaction advisory. Invenio understands that every company is different with its own set of challenges, opportunities, people and approach.

Clare Nicholls
Clare Nicholls

The moment that ignited the spark in me to start a business was…

Invenio brings together both sides of my career. I spent 10 years as an investment banker and I loved it. I loved the buzz of the intensity and the intellectual stimulation you get from working on deals, helping to realise your clients’ business ambitions. It gives you a huge kick.

In the latter stage of my career I became more and more passionate about what my clients were doing, and I wanted to truly understand the industry I was holding myself out to be a specialist adviser in. I felt quite strongly that if I was going to give my clients best advice, I needed to truly understand the nuances of their businesses. The better you understand your clients, the better the advice you can give.

At that time, I was working closely with Endemol and John de Mol. An opportunity came along for me to found my own television production business with two very senior BBC executives. Somewhat seduced by the success of Endemol and entrepreneurialism I jumped at the opportunity.

Overnight I was at the polar end of the other spectrum of business but I loved it. Every meeting, every decision matters and you are totally accountable and in charge, and it’s the most phenomenal feeling. Turning a team of three into a team of over fifty people, and seeing us grow and flourish, and then selling at the right time, was so satisfying.

That’s where Invenio comes into play. As a boutique investment bank, it’s not just a question of being transaction focussed, which we clearly are, but it’s also about achieving the best value for clients in both fundraises and eventual sale. To do that, you’ve got to understand your industry, you’ve got to understand business, you’ve got to understand how you grow a business, you’ve got to understand the risks within doing that, and you’ve got to understand how ambition maps into the execution before you can sell – all this brings both sides of my career together. We know first hand what goes into building a business, and what a life-changing moment a successful sale can be. That is a responsibility we don’t take lightly.

I’ve gone back into advisory, because I see there is such a gap in the market. The world of business has changed so dramatically over the past 10-15 years, and ambitious management teams deserve a more sophisticated, modern and nimble offering. But the advisory world has not evolved to match their clients.

The thing that’s most surprised me since I made that move is…

How easy and logical that transition is, and that nobody else in our space is doing it.

The toughest challenge I’ve faced is…

I think it was the fear of leaving the security of big corporate life and suddenly going where there was zero safety net. It was all I knew and understood, and I was suddenly then going from a major international organisation to a team of three others and myself. It was the complete other end of the spectrum. I now understand how every entrepreneur feels.

My biggest success has been…

If I’m really honest, I tend not to think of it like that. I don’t think backwardsand that question asks me to think backwards. I like to focus on the present and what we’re doing now. That’s what I get the biggest buzz out of. I don’t really think about the past journey - it’s all about the now and what’s coming in the future.

I’m very good at…

I’m very, very pragmatic and good at cutting through noise to the commercial heart of any issue. I’ve got a good nose for looking at opportunities and understanding the potential whilst identifying and quantifying the risks.

The type of person I look to recruit into my organisation is…

People who are passionate, bright and willing to learn.

The part of my day I most look forward to is…

Seeing my business partner Mark and having our morning round-up. He is an exceptionally nuanced negotiator and doesn’t suffer fools. Growing a business with him is brilliant and a lot of fun. We knew there was a better way to offer corporate finance advice for ambitious owner-mangers but even we’ve been stunned the success of Invenio.

If I could give my 18-year old self one piece of advice it would be…

Don’t panic. Don’t let your imagination limit your ambition. I did not have the imagination at 18 years old to have led the life I’ve led.

Outside of work I can be found…

On my bike. I’m a massive cycling nut. And I walk. My idea of heaven is cycling and mountains.

My philosophy on life is…

Life can throw all kinds of stuff at you and that’s out of your control. The only thing that you can ever choose to give away is your integrity. It’s the only thing that you’re in control of – never give it away.

If I was asking the questions, I would want to know…

The underlying ambition. The ultimate aim and the underlying ambition.

What I like about working with Ignition Law…

It’s the personalities. We share the same common sense of personalities, values and beliefs. Ignition are brilliant to work with.

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