(Bloomberg) --

Chief, a US networking group for women executives, whose backers include Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s investing arm CapitalG, is expanding internationally with its first London clubhouse.

The firm will open its fifth flagship in Bloomsbury in January, and women executives are now able to apply for memberships that will start next year, Chief said in a statement. Benefits include access to its network as well as sessions with executive coaches, and membership fees are an average of £6,500 ($7,300) annually.

“The UK was far and away the No. 1 requested place” for expansion, said Carolyn Childers, co-founder and chief executive officer. She estimated that there are about 1 million women executives in the UK, from vice president to C-level. Chief’s members now number 20,000 and the waiting list is at more than 60,000. 

“Women are underrepresented in executive leadership positions across the UK, much like they are in most of the world,” Lindsay Kaplan, co-founder and chief brand officer, said in the statement. Canada is the second-largest foreign market of interest after the UK, she said. 

Both women said they were not deterred by recent turmoil around UK government policy that had led to a crash in the pound and a selldown in stock and bond markets. “In times of uncertainty, networks are very helpful. We’ve seen member engagement go up in difficult markets,” Childers said in an interview.

Companies across sectors are slowing hiring and starting layoffs, Childers said. “But as workforces constrict, they need to invest in the development of people, and that is ultimately our core strength.”  

Chief makes its profits from its fees, with companies sponsoring the vast majority of members. The company, which started in 2019, raised $100 million in a funding round earlier this year that valued it at $1.1 billion.

The funding will support the company’s expansion, Childers said. “We don’t anticipate having to do another fundraise in the near future,” she said.

(Updates with details on membership, fundraising from second paragraph)

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