On the right foot

This article was published in New CA magazine.

From professional footballer to partner in a succesful SME investment house, the sure-footed Malcolm Kpedekpo discusses the value of entrepreneurialism and ambition.

Malcolm Kpedekpo’s career has taken him from Aberdeen FC, through CA training with KPMG to the bank of Scotland and his present role as a partner with Panoramic Growth Equity.

Panoramic, which Malcolm set up with his Bank of Scotland colleagues David Wilson and Stephen Campbell, provides equity funding for SMEs that need it to unlock their potential.

As Malcolm explains: “These businesses have got a choice to make. Either they stay where they are as a ‘lifestyle’ business or, if they are ambitious, take on extra finance and use it to grow the business.”

Panoramic’s typical deal would involve a minority equity investment of between £500,000 and £2m. The “equity gap” exists because deals of this size are often seen as too small for most private equity houses, and too large for many business angels. He says: “Coming out of a recession it’s not all gloom and doom. There are entrepreneurs looking for finance to make use of the opportunities they see out there.”

The war chest includes a significant injection from the government’s Enterprise Capital Fund, which was set up to encourage private sector investment in SMEs. In fact, the firm secured the biggest single tranche of capital the ECF has invested so far.

Panoramic started raising capital in 2009 and when the fund closed in September this year, it had amassed £34m. It was not easy, though. Malcolm says: “For quite a long period we were all without salaries, but we raised more than we expected to raise and it has given us massive empathy with the people who come to us for funds. We know what they are going through.”

His career nearly took a very different direction, however. Back in 1992, Malcolm’s skills on the football pitch attracted the attention of both Celtic and Aberdeen FC, his home team (“Kpedekpo” comes from his Ghanaian father). He was still at school and Celtic wanted him to quit and join the club fulltime. Aberdeen, however, was prepared to take him on part-time so that he could continue through school and then university.

Malcolm recalls: “I’d leave on a Saturday morning and play with the first team, and be back at the halls of residence by 7.30pm. I tended to get most of my games at the end of the season, though, so it tended to clash with exams!”

By his early 20s Malcolm was getting games with the first team as a centre-forward. He says: “It was a great time… I decided that I would give it everything I could to try and make it, but if I could not make it at the top level in football I would go and do something different, rather than move to a team further down the league.

“At 22 you should be playing all the time, but I was only playing when people were injured, and at the same time the club was signing new centre-forwards. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what’s happening.”

Malcolm joined KPMG as a trainee in 1998 and, after qualifying as a CA, spent four years with the firm in Australia, working in the corporate finance team in Sydney. He returned to Scotland in 2007 to work with the Bank of Scotland’s growth equity team.

It was only a matter of time, however, before he, David Wilson and Stephen Campbell decided to branch out on their own and Panoramic was born. As Malcolm puts it: “For people who do what we do, it’s a natural progression. It would be wrong if you did not have the ambition to go out and do it for yourself!”