3i has continued to be a huge success story. More than 25 years on, 3i is now an international venture capital firm, with a market capitalisation approaching €6 billion.
As Britain emerged from the second world war, a syndicate of British banks created a new body, ICFC, to rekindle British enterprise by investing in new businesses.By the 1980s, it had become a successful provider of venture capital, but was starting to face tougher competition from similar-looking organisations. Under CEO Jon Foulds, the organisation wanted to reassert what made it unique.
Through its life, ICFC had used money more inventively and imaginatively than its peers, and Wolff Olins defined this attitude as ‘the creative use of money’. Instead of a clutter of initials (ICFC was also known as FFI), we proposed a much more distinctive and purposeful name: Investors in Industry, or 3i. Unusually, we commissioned an artist, Phil Sutton, to produce a watercolour on which the 3i symbol was based. The new brand was launched in 1983, and the effect was dramatic: transformation from anonymous institution to an organisation that clearly lived on creativity.
3i has continued to be a huge success story. More than 25 years on, 3i is now an international venture capital firm, with a market capitalisation approaching €6 billion. But in a world of dozens of near-identical private equity businesses, 3i still looks, thinks and acts unlike anyone else.