Q&A with Ore Adeyemi, managing director and head, HSBC SII

Ore Adeyemi is based in Silicon Valley, leading investment efforts for UK-based financial services firm HSBC’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm, Strategic Innovation Investments (SII). The SII team invests in companies globally that are strategically aligned with HSBC in order to drive innovation and adoption of technologies across business lines. Adeyemi joined HSBC as a post-MBA associate 14 years ago and moved up the ranks from investment associate, investment manager, investment director, managing director and now head of the unit, spending almost 12 years as an investment professional at HSBC.

1. Any highlights from the past year?

Overall the past year was a successful year for me and the SII team. I formally took on global responsibility for the team and together we facilitated connections to well over 100 companies for our HSBC colleagues through an extensive network of companies and VC investors. It was also a defining year in which the SII programme became fully-established in the US with my presence there, and the team is now well-positioned to take on new challenges with a renewed mandate.

On the investments front, we delivered five new investments and 5 follow-on investments in 2019. We had two notable exits in Crowdstrike, through an initial public offering (IPO), and Kyriba Trade Sale to private equity – both unicorns that provided excellent returns. But most importantly, we continued to have a high level of engagement these companies and with our portfolio companies.

I have maintained that our aim as the SII team is to be a gold standard for the world of corporate venturing and we take this goal very seriously as a team.

Strategic and Leadership measures: 

  • Examples of corporate acquisitions of portfolio or venture-backed companies
    Although we do not rule it out, HSBC makes an active decision to make a minority investment rather than attempt to acquire companies where we invest because we see the benefits of keeping the company as a standalone organisation.
  • Business unit partnerships and development with portfolio companies
    In some circumstances, we have increased use cases 10 fold from the time of investment, and every portfolio company currently has a commercial relationship with the bank.
  • Product or strategy roadmaps and public leadership position in conferences and associations
    Served as an informal adviser to funds and entities looking to set up similar CVC units within financial services and other industry segments. A value-add from me has always been bringing insights into venture team building, having been a founding member of two investment arms – private equity and venture capital within HSBC.
    Participated a thought leader on panels, conference events not only in the SF Bay area but outside of the US as well as London, Hong Kong etc. Also mentoring several individuals in the venture space.
  • Team member in GCV Rising Stars, Emerging Leaders and other awards
    There has been at least a member of the team acknowledged as a Rising Star for the last three years – and I hope to nominate another member this year. Moran Levinovitz and Thomas Bussey – are two of the most senior investment professionals on the team and both have been recognised as Rising Stars over the past years.
  • Team expansion and recent promotions
    We recently made a key hire – Alexander Barkley as a portfolio manager as we look to build the function of engagement with our portfolio companies and help them leverage all the resources at their disposal through HSBC. Furthermore, as we expand and capitalise on opportunities in Asia, we expect to hire a head of investments for the region shortly.

2. What are the plans for the year ahead?

This year we are looking to increase our presence in Asia. We made our first investment in the region and hired our first team member based in Asia in 2019. We also continue to build our partnership capabilities. We started the year by hiring our first portfolio manager and are looking to build that function to find even more ways we can help our portfolio companies.

With strong support from HSBC leadership and management, we consistently feel a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

3. Could you mention some milestones achieved at your unit so far?

In addition to the strategic value that our investments have already brought to many business units across HSBC globally, investing across three different continents and every stage from series A to series E shows the reach of the bank and the team’s adaptability. We have also now achieved exits both through sales and IPO since the team‘s inception and expect to see more of the same going forward.

4. Please mention some pain points and opportunities you’ve encountered in corporate venturing.

As part of a large corporate, decision-making will never be as streamlined as it is for the financial VCs with whom we co-invest, but over the last one to two years the industry as a whole seems to be starting to appreciate the different value that a CVC or strategic investor can bring to a round and so more often than not, we see this as an expectation built into round planning. Now five years in, we have a significant positive track record behind us as investors as well as the HSBC brand name and the challenge for the next five years will be trying to prioritise the opportunities we see across the globe.

5. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Highlight where we add value that financial VCs do not and vice versa, and work hand in hand across the industry to show how beneficial those differences can be to companies and co-investors.

6. For colour, what did you do prior to CVC?

Prior to SII, I was an investment director within HSBC Principal Investments focusing on private equity investments, and managing HSBC’s global portfolio of co-investments alongside leading global buy-out firms. I have also worked within HSBC’s Investment Banking group on the mergers and acquisition (M&A) team, where he executed a wide range of M&A transactions across several sectors and geographies. Before HSBC, I worked for firms such as Dubai Holding, Dubai Development and Investment Authority, Booz Allen Hamilton and Hewlett-Packard across functions such as strategy, research and development, product development, among others.

I have an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, and also received a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT.

When not chasing the next deal, with four young children, I spend a lot of time cooking, in sports and music activities – and doing a lot of tidying up!