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Business & Economy

Q&A: John Healy, investor at BGF

John Healey is an investor at the UK and Ireland’s most active growth capital investor, BGF. He joined BGF in June 2022 from business advisory firm, UNW, where he spent eight years advising on a number of high-profile acquisition, disposal and fundraising transactions across the North-East. With an established network, John has a strong track record in the region, working in collaboration with exciting and entrepreneurial regional businesses with a clear appetite for growth.

Tell us a little more about your role within BGF?

I joined BGF with the aim to help provide an even closer link between ambitious businesses across the North-East and the significant support that BGF is able to offer them. Having worked across the region for many years, I have seen first-hand how many exceptional companies have been established and scaled in the region. My role within BGF is to identify and partner with these businesses to help them on their growth journey – as seen with our existing portfolio companies, such as Gateshead-headquartered Bloom Procurement Services, Durham-based SaaS tech platform, HiComply, and Stockton-based Datum360. BGF is a unique and supportive minority partner, as well as being able to provide significant funding. A key part of my role is to also provide the management teams we back with easy access to the wide range of experience and expertise BGF can help bring to bear from its national and international networks. We find that being local helps us do this much more effectively, which is why BGF took the decision to invest in a permanent office and team in the North East.

What is the investment market like in the North East at present? Are there any sectors showing significant growth and/or promise?

The North East has always been very entrepreneurial; it also benefits from being home to some of the best universities in the country. As a result, the region hosts a wide cross-section of businesses, ranging from high-growth technology start-ups, to major employers like Nissan, SAGE and P&G. Within the middle of this are a significant number of high quality, owner-managed businesses that collectively form a large part of the area’s economic activity. Encouragingly, the region is also making progress in terms of attracting and retaining talent and, more recently, this is starting to generate new inbound investment, particularly from national and international businesses with a more digital focus, looking to tap into the local talent pool. Major projects like the Teesside Freeport will also create opportunity and growth for many years to come.

Those of us who are already located here know that the North-East is a great place to live, and the more talented people we can keep or attract to the area through providing high quality jobs, training and opportunities, the more the region will prosper. This is particularly the case in a post-COVID and Brexit world, where there is a real war for talent raging across many sectors and a migration away from some of the major cities. With these dynamics at play, the North-East is able to build a sustainable and vibrant economy. I am proud to be part of BGF’s own investment into the region and I am confident that we can play a part in its further development by backing local businesses and by partnering with them on their journey to become national or international leaders in their fields.

How is the market post-pandemic – have things begun to settle following the turbulence of COVID-19?

Merger and acquisition activity contracted quite sharply during the first lockdown in Spring 2020, and the market remained quiet for a few months as people and businesses tried to deal with the significant challenges caused by the pandemic. Deal activity then rebounded very quickly towards the end of 2020, before reaching record levels in 2021 and the start of 2022. A lot of this recovery was driven by Government support, boosting business and consumer spending, relatively low interest rates and a resilient investment market. As 2022 has progressed, there are more headwinds impacting the market, factors and causations like high inflation, cost of living, rising interest rates, the unwinding of COVID support, the conflict in Ukraine, and Brexit. These are creating significant consumer and supply chain pressures, which inevitably will impact many businesses. BGF is structured to be able to invest for the long term, through the cycle, and whilst we are obviously very mindful about these market forces, we will continue to support ambitious businesses in the North-East and across the UK.

You know the region very well from a previous role with another organisation. How exciting is it to be continuing to play a role in its success?

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked as a Corporate Finance Partner in the region for many years, and to now have the chance to help further establish BGF’s presence in the area. Before I joined, I had known BGF for many years, and always thought it would be great for the North East if BGF was to establish a permanent base in the region. I am delighted this has happened and am proud to be asked to be part of it. Personally, the really exciting thing for me is the opportunity I now have with BGF to support local businesses on their growth journey and to see this happening first hand. It will be great to see the companies we partner with develop and, in doing so, for them to create more opportunity and prosperity for people living and working in the region.