Shaper: Anna Josse

Show aired on 7th April 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them we put someone who is shaping the world of business, we call them a Business Shaper. I am very pleased to say my Business Shaper today is Anna Josse; she is the Founder and CEO at Prism The Gift Fund an incredibly clever idea around giving and philanthropic things and not only that she’s the Founder of a couple of other related businesses too. Anna thank you for joining me.

Anna Josse
Good morning.

Elliot Moss
Good morning, hi. Tell me a little bit about what Prism The Gift Fund does because I imagine that those who know it know it really well and those who don’t don’t know anything about it?

Anna Josse
Of course. So it is a UK registered charity and simply it administers the giving of individuals, groups and foundations making significant gifts to charities all over the world and we educate them how to do it tax effectively as well. So if you’ve ever heard the term donor advised fund that is actually an American term that is what we are and that is what we want the whole of the UK to know about.

Elliot Moss
In America giving is a big business, in this country less so. Not in a sense of the amounts people donate but just the structure around it, the industry. Tell me why you thought back in I think it was 2004 around then?

Anna Josse
Yes that’s right.

Elliot Moss
Why you thought this would be a good idea?

Anna Josse
So in the early 2000s the whole notion of philanthropy and professionalising philanthropy moved from America into the UK and there were other people looking at structures and looking at what can we create and I was very much part of those conversations and did about a year and a half’s worth of research, looked at prospective clients, looking at that American model things like fidelity in America, the Rockefeller Foundation have donor advised funds and thought you know what there is an opportunity in this country to create this but really targeting the mid upper end of the market.

Elliot Moss
Now what were you doing before this happened? Before you decided to become an entrepreneur?

Anna Josse
I’ve had various different areas of involvement in my life but just before that I had been involved in setting up and running a financial services operation called Regent Capital and that still runs today and I have a great smart business partner, Gideon who works with me alongside that and my passion was philanthropy though so on the back of Regent Capital I then created Prism The Gift Fund.

Elliot Moss
And I believe also you were involved as the Director of Investor Relations at Yazam?

Anna Josse
I was.

Elliot Moss
Yes. So the world of technology back in 2000 which was almost like the wild west then I imagine?

Anna Josse
Well I had been running the British operation, I had set up actually the British arm of an Israeli/American charity. Ran that for six years, learnt huge amounts from the Americans where I first got all these ideas but hi-tech was developing and I thought I need to be part of that and Yazam had grown again from a bank in Israel. They had raised $75,000,000 from Apax/Merrill Lynch/J P Morgan and were looking for the first European/UK Director. I knew nothing but ended up as that person and very early on realised this had to be a financial regulated company so I became financially regulated. It was fabulous, it was like being in an offbeat ad every day going into the office which I set up on, I set up all my offices around W1 Baker Street because it was very good for home and bus routes. So there we were and very early on it bought a company which you may have heard of called First Tuesday which was big in the hi-tech world at that point bringing entrepreneurs and investors together. It was like a reverse takeover but anyway I learnt a lot in a very short space of time before it all imploded but what it gave me were financial skills and I was financially regulated so I could go on and create Regent Capital.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out how my very strategically smart Business Shaper Anna Josse has collected chips of experience from all sorts of places to enable her to deliver a different and innovative way of giving here in the UK. That’s Anna Josse, Founder and CEO at Prism The Gift Fund. Time for some more music this is Stevie Wonder with one of my all-time favourites it is Superstition.

Superstition from Stevie Wonder, I know you know that because it’s such a brilliant track. Anna Josse is my Business Shaper, Founder and CEO at Prism The Gift Fund and we’re talking about exporting or rather importing really brilliant stuff that’s going on elsewhere. I’ve always thought about of businesses that are working elsewhere or ideas that it’s a bit like time travel you’ve gone back in time a little bit, you’ve jumped in the tardis, you’ve gone and grabbed the idea Anna and then you brought it here but because we haven’t seen it here it works. When you did that in 2004 I imagine people thought you were slightly nuts because it was so new that no one had really seen it?

Anna Josse
Well there is a big Government body that is our main competitor but it’s a very different animal. The whole ethos of Prism is its efficient, its personal, it’s swift so when a donor comes to us and increasingly because of the regulatory environment we exist in they don’t want to create their own grant making foundation they open an account with us. A donor advised fund and they get a relationship manager and they simply say ‘oh I would like to make a gift of £10,000 to Cancer Research’ and off it goes within forty eight hours.

Elliot Moss
And not doing it themselves what’s the benefit to them because they obviously pay you a fee for this I would imagine?

Anna Josse
Well, they do. They are time poor, they often don’t keep a record of their giving. They frankly don’t understand gift aid let alone any other tax benefit that exists for philanthropy so there is at the moment about £750,000,000 unclaimed every year in gift aid.

Elliot Moss
And when you set this up was it, was there a kind of a sense that, was it slow at the beginning or was there a very quick pick up?

Anna Josse
No it was slow, it’s hard grafting. Lots of fund raisers always come and knock on my door and expect me to hand them major donors and I say there is no magic wand it’s called hand graft and that’s what it was until we reached a momentum where the private client industry of banks and law firms and accountants got to know us as we literally knocked on their doors and did their due diligence and started referring in and the clients started referring clients and that has become a snowball effect and I would say right now the biggest challenge is managing the growth and dealing with the constant request of new clients coming in, dealing with staff, dealing with… we’ve got three ads out at the moment for new opportunities.

Elliot Moss
And how much money now are you essentially helping people give?

Anna Josse
Last year we gave out £20,000,000. Every year in the last three years we’ve raised approximately £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 coming in and we have about £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 under management. So when we look at success or growth we’ve got to look at each of those elements because what’s the overall objective? To get as much money out there so each of those pieces the income, the output and what’s under management are all important pieces of the puzzle. When donors come to us they often give us hundreds of thousands and multi millions and they may say ‘you know what in year one I’m going to give out £200,000 to the following ten charities and I want the balance asset managed’, my personal wealth sits with I don’t know, any, you know JP Morgan, Barclays wherever it is and we then are very flexible that’s another great aspect of Prism. Wherever you want you’ve got a hedge fund, it can go into a hedge fund, buy bonds, it’s incredibly flexible. We’ve got money sitting in our book from Canada so they then have that opportunity for the balance to grow whilst they are still making gifts out.

Elliot Moss
When you actually made the decision to go and do your own thing and obviously Regent Capital was the first move into that. Was that a good feeling? Was it liberating knowing that it was your own baby as opposed to being an employee or was it the opposite?

Anna Josse
I was never a good employee. I started life in Pepe Jeans and remember shouting at my boss then saying ‘do you have any idea how to work a photocopier? Really for God sake’ and bossed people around from a very young age and I think a corporate environment would never have worked for me.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out why the corporate environment doesn’t work Anna Josse my Business Shaper. Much more coming up from her in a couple of minutes but first we’ve got some words of advice from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning from 9.00am sharp. If you have ever missed a programme and I hope you don’t because you’ll be on the naughty step if that happens then you can go into iTunes and put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. Alternatively go to Jazzfm.com for catch-up for a week for the last week’s programme or even a really natty little device it’s called Alexa, it’s sitting there somewhere near you right now you can enable Alexa by saying those words with enable ‘Jazz Shapers’ and then say play ‘Jazz Shapers’ and everything will magically happen. Right in front of me though now I have Anna Josse and she is the Founder and CEO at Prism The Gift Fund and we’ve been talking about importing clever things over here and creating a new business, creating a new category. You said you were a bad employee, many of my guests say this, did you in those early months and years ever doubt that you’d made the right move towards creating this new way? This more organised way of delivering philanthropic solutions?

Anna Josse
No. I think maybe that’s a key part of being an entrepreneur just having an absolute self-belief and having you know, and having a confidence and you know I must give credit to Gideon as well because having a business partner I think helps and he’s brilliant at financial structuring. So he brings sense and numbers to you know any development and that’s important as well also to know where your limitations lie.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of those limitations what would you describe them as for you? I mean I imagine alongside that self-belief, alongside that self-belief, alongside that absolute focus it’s going to work is also a sense of your own limitations or insecurities because that’s natural and if you don’t confront those you’re not going to be able to build a team, so when you build your team what lack of skills are you addressing for yourself?

Anna Josse
I find one of the hardest pieces is the staff and the management and having to look after that whole other piece because if you’re an entrepreneur and you have an idea and you start off down a path you’ve actually got to do all the pieces of the puzzle. Having said that when I set up the Yazam Fund which is an American charity and I set up the UK operation – I did everything, literally from direct mail, to running events, to building a board, to raising money from major donors and that whole element is very important as building blocks of running an operation because you’ve got to get your hands dirty in every little aspect so you really know about it and in fact if I think about it I did a business degree originally and worked for a year for British Van Heusen in Somerset and they sent me to the factory to make two shirts – one shirt generally takes twenty six minutes I spent two days.

Elliot Moss
But it sounds like without the shirt making because obviously I know where I’m not going to go if I need a new shirt and it’s definitely somewhere near you, it sounds like you quite like being in control though and that sense of doing it all yourself is almost, although it’s hard it’s kind of easier it sounds like the team thing and then the delegation and the letting go is a bit trickier?

Anna Josse
I think you’ve hit it right on the head.

Elliot Moss
How do you manage that? What would the team, how would the team describe Anna, CEO and Founder? What would they say?

Anna Josse
I need to be a bit softer.

Elliot Moss
You need to let go a bit.

Anna Josse
And I need to let go.

Elliot Moss
We can do this therapy it’s free, this bits extra I’m not going to even charge you for it.

Anna Josse
The party that we ran last weekend for my family, someone wrote to me and said ‘who’s your event organiser?’ I said, ‘me’.

Elliot Moss
I can see that’s true. Stay with me for much more from Anna Josse, she’s definitely in charge but then that’s kind of what it takes as well, Founder and CEO at Prism The Gift Fund. Time for some more music its Alfredo Rodriguez with Besame Mucho.

That was Besame Mucho from Alfredo Rodriguez, a gentle take on that classic. Anna Josse is my Business Shaper and we’ve been talking about wanting standards to be high and making sure the team knows what’s expected. Where, I mean you obviously enjoy all the aspects or pretty much all the aspects of the business and letting go obviously is one of the hardest things and I think we’ve established that, what drives you now? You are fourteen years on into the business is it just that it should be bigger? Is it that you should be better because there’s more and more regulation, it’s getting tougher. We’re hearing unfortunately in the news lots of stories about huge charities losing control because they are employing thousands of people around the world. What for you does success look like over the next three to five years?

Anna Josse
So I think there are two answers to that question. One is why and why am I doing this and I always, whatever I have always done I always want to do it to the best of my ability.

Elliot Moss
And why do you think that? What drives that in you, Anna?

Anna Josse
It’s inherent. I can’t do it any, I don’t know how to do it any other way. It’s just I can’t do something. You know when I have people for dinner I want the flowers there, I want, I can’t do it any other way.

Elliot Moss
We’re available on Friday by the way, next week put it in the diary. I bet you cook well and you prepare the flowers or you organise or whatever it is.

Anna Josse
Yeah it’s all ordered.

Elliot Moss
It’s all perfect.

Anna Josse
Thursday night, early Friday morning we’d love to have you.

Elliot Moss
But sorry yeah so …

Anna Josse
And the other piece…

Elliot Moss
Yes.

Anna Josse
…the other piece and we just had a great blue sky session with our Board in November and created a vision for the next few years and that vision is, let’s get to half a billion, let’s get to half a billion and why? Because we can shape philanthropy in this country. If we let everyone know how easy it is to have a donor advised fund to encourage giving, to educate people to give we can change the landscape and the amount that people give in this country and that’s our vision, that’s where we’re heading.

Elliot Moss
So shaping the whole world of giving, within shaping is there a part of it which talks about driving governance and accountability of the very charities you’re giving to because it seems to me that that contract, that relationship, that sense of trust is being, has been diminished slightly and it needs looking after. How does a business like yours do that in a way that a Vanguard in the asset management world would affect the governance of the businesses it invests in?

Anna Josse
So it is fundamental the regulation that one’s under as a charity and the giving to know who you’re giving to, to get reporting back, to get accounts particularly when you have people giving multi-year gifts you’re not going to give year two unless your happy with what they’ve done with year one and because we can gift all over the world the kind of regulation and due diligence we go through before we can make a gift overseas is very expensive so it’s increasingly, you’re right, increasingly burdensome running a charity but there is our opportunity because lots of people do not want to create their own grant making foundation or do not want to create their own operational charity and come to us to use our regulatory roof because we have that expertise.

Elliot Moss
And very briefly I think part of it is governance and regulation but the other part is culture because what drives big organisations is a sense of values. Are you thinking about how you might help charities do that or is that beyond the remit?

Anna Josse
I think that is beyond the remit and that’s another lesson that I have learnt because people throw things at me.

Elliot Moss
Yeah you can fix that can’t you?

Anna Josse
How about doing that? How about you know the latest ‘why don’t you become the compliance expert for grant making foundations and tell them all the new policies they need to create policies on vulnerable people, policies on children’ and I said ‘that’s not what we do’. One of our greatest strengths is the objective I set in 2004 remains the same objective today and that shows it works so I’m not going to get side tracked.

Elliot Moss
In addition to the work that you are doing and it’s interesting because here’s a dichotomy coming up, you’re very focused on the main thing which you set down in writing in 2004 and it’s great that in November you put down a vision to kind of where do we go and the half a billion under management is a great, it’s a big vision, it’s shaping that industry, it’s fabulous. You’ve also got other interests, Regent Capital is a vehicle for you and its FCA regulated. And how do you find the head space?

Anna Josse
Slalom when I am water skiing.

Elliot Moss
Of course it is, I didn’t see that coming much and when do you get chance to do that? Is it whenever you can?

Anna Josse
Weekends, 8.30 in the evening through the summer.

Elliot Moss
Did you ever, have you ever encountered any obstacles because of your gender?

Anna Josse
No I don’t think so actually, I personally haven’t. I think I’ve had to over the years probably play a game sometimes.

Elliot Moss
In what sense?

Anna Josse
Stupid, arrogant, successful, powerful men who think they can take advantage. I was never going to put myself in that position but if that’s what they thought let them think that.

Elliot Moss
And do you see yourself as a role model or again does that not…?

Anna Josse
Not really. Not really. Maybe one day. Not really. Maybe a role model to my son I think maybe to him that’s important.

Elliot Moss
And of all the roles that you play is the most important one being a mother rather than being a successful business person.

Anna Josse
I think both are. I don’t think I would be happy in life if I didn’t have both actually.

Elliot Moss
Good luck it’s been really lovely talking to you and make sure those team members are given a bit of space as well, just like you need space. She’s smiling. You can do what you like I’m sure they’re very happy and they’ll be listening in going she hasn’t told you half the stories. Yeah really, really good luck and I really do hope you can shape the industry because philanthropy is an incredibly important thing and it’s a great innovation to have brought it across in the way that you have. Just before I let you go what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Anna Josse
So it is Take Five by Dave Brubeck and the history behind that is my husband brought it first of all to me, he told me about the music and then Dave Brubeck’s son rented a property from a charitable foundation which we were involved with and at the same time was playing in Ronnie Scott’s and now my very talented son who is a pianist and saxophonist is playing Take Five so it’s there in our lives.

Elliot Moss
That was Dave Brubeck with Take Five the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Anna Josse. She identified an opportunity and she went hell for leather to make it happen here in the UK. She had huge amounts of self-belief and this has really helped ensure that she continues to drive her business forward and finally she understands the importance of focus. She’s focused on what she will do and what the business will do not what it won’t do. Really, really good stuff. Thank you for listening today I do hope you’ve enjoyed Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Stay with us for much more from the world of jazz, blues and soul.

Anna Josse

Anna Josse was born and raised in Hampstead, where she still resides on the same street where she grew up. Anna spent time at a seminary in Israel before attending Manchester Metropolitan University, where she was Chair of the Jewish Society. Anna established the UK arm of American charity New Israel Fund for six years during the 1990s and worked at the Social Market Foundation. She has also been Director of Investor Relations at Yazam, a technology start up, where in 2000 she led the opening of the first European offices. Anna is currently the Founder and CEO at Prism, the Gift Fund. Prism increases charitable giving by administering individuals’ philanthropy and providing charitable auspices to group fundraisers. She co-leads Regent Capital, a private equity firm, and also acts as a trustee for a number of charities including World Jewish Relief.

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“In the early 2000s the whole notion of professionalising philanthropy moved from America to the UK & there were people looking at structures and at what can we create. I was very much part of those conversations.”

“I set up the British arm of an Israeli/American charity. Ran that for six years, learnt huge amounts from the Americans, but high-tech was developing and I thought I need to be part of that.”

“The whole ethos of Prism is its efficient, its personal, it’s swift.”

“I would say right now the biggest challenge is managing the growth and dealing with the constant request of new clients coming in.”

“I bossed people around from a very young age and I think a corporate environment would never have worked for me.”

“I always want to do it to the best of my ability.”

“We can shape philanthropy in this country. If we let everyone know how easy it is to have a donor advised fund to encourage giving, to educate people to give, we can change the landscape. That’s our vision, that’s where we’re heading.”

“One of our greatest strengths is the objective I set in 2004. It remains the same objective today and that shows it works so I’m not going to get side tracked.”