More than 120 guests gathered to hear a keynote address from Andrew Mitchell, MP and Secretary of State for International Development, at the Commonwealth Club in Central London on Wednesday, 21 March. Joining Mr. Mitchell on the dais were Rupert Scofield, FINCA President and CEO, James Leigh-Pemberton, Credit Suisse UK Managing Director and CEO, and Ramanie Kunanayagam, Group Head of Social Performance for BG Group.
The topic under discussion —Social Entrepreneurship: A solution to poverty alleviation? Panelists addressed the topic from varying perspectives, all with the focus on how microfinance can be a tool that contributes to lifting individuals and communities out of severe poverty.
During his comments, Mr. Mitchell said that the focus needs to be on outcomes of development projects, not the inputs, and that economic development and wealth creation should be “the engine of development, not the enemy of it.”
"Getting more people involved in micro-financial and microcredit services is something we recognise as being enormously important," he said. "We think that microfinance has the capacity to make quite extraordinary changes across the world, and for what you [FINCA] are seeking to do, we are aiming to provide very strong support."
David Rigg, founder and Managing Director of Project Associates, led the discussion which focused on social entrepreneurship as it pertains to ways in which corporations, as well as public and private investors and government entities, can make an impact toward improving the developing world through partnerships with not-for-profit organizations that have clear, mission-driven mandates.
According to Mr. Scofield, social entrepreneurship begins with identifying one’s passion and sourcing the means, both financial and from a human resources perspective, to grow the enterprise to a level of self-sustainability while remaining focused on your mission. Once you’ve securely reached that point, he said, you look at ways to increase your ability to reach more people with your services. Partnering with organizations, like Credit Suisse, can bring the added value needed to help move an organization to the next level.
For example, some of FINCA’s subsidiaries faced foreign currency exposure risk because they couldn’t borrow in local currency. Credit Suisse was able to secure total funding of USD 10 million through a pioneer transaction, the Local Currency Microfinance Note, a first-of-its-kind structured product that brought together microfinance with local currency funding. The two-year, closed-end structure is solely funded by socially-responsible private investors.
“This transaction represents a milestone event in FINCA’s 25-year history, greatly reducing the foreign currency exposure risk to FINCA’s participating subsidiaries while, most importantly, reducing risks to clients,” Mr. Scofield said. “Microfinance investment products like this align perfectly with FINCA’s strategy for expanded outreach by partnering with socially-responsible investors who share our poverty alleviation mission.”
These types of mechanisms are where Credit Suisse sees that it can play a key role in social entrepreneurship. In a survey conducted with its investors, Credit Suisse found that 60 percent of respondents indicated that a primary motivation in investment decisions was social impact.
“There is an appetite for Credit Suisse and its clients to partner with organizations like FINCA because there is an enormous market with a sizable demand for funding and, through partnerships like the local currency note and our support for FINCA’s Development Academy, there is the capacity to satisfy everyone’s social mission.”
BG Group’s Ramanie Kunanayagam told the audience of their efforts to move away from traditional corporate philanthropy and focus more resources on active engagement with local communities.
“We’ve opened microfinance projects in Egypt and Tunisia through which more than 3,000 families are benefitting,” she said. “We also see the need to tackle youth unemployment, and are focusing our social performance portfolio on education, vocational training and livelihood enhancement.”
FINCA UK is the British-based fundraising arm of FINCA International. Registered as a UK charity in 2008, its goals are to create awareness about, and support for, FINCA’s poverty alleviation mission among the citizens of the UK and Europe by partnering with individuals, civic and business organizations, corporations, investors and government entities. For more information, please visit www.FINCAUK.org