SPECIAL INTERVIEW ! — ELS BOERHOF [PART II]

Below is the second part of Els Boerhof’s interview.

In this part, she shares with us her views on Entrepreneurship & the Future of Microfinance.

You can read the first part of the interview here, in which she talks about Impact Investing and Setting up a Fund.


IV – THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF MICROFINANCE

Els Boerhof

1- M-I: Microfinance started with small loans given to women. Is it still mostly women who beneficiate from it?

Els: The microfinance model became successful because of the group-lending model. People in the group guarantee each other so that the bank will also get the money back. Microfinance initially focused on women as they had a harder time accessing traditional loans and they seem to be more prepared for the group-lending model as they accept group meetings better.

 

2 – M-I: Microfinance is present in emerging countries, but what about developed regions?

Els: In Europe, some banks like Crédit Agricole started as cooperatives. We might be returning back to these models. Crowdfunding is growing nowadays. It is a development in that direction.

Many people find it important to do good things with their money. The upcoming generation is more inclined to share goods. It is part of the sharing economy. In my opinion, funding small businesses through the crowd will become more and more important. At Goodwell, we hope to use these platforms so that more people can have the opportunity to invest.

 

3 – M-I: How is the world of microfinance evolving?

Photo: Unsplash

Els: In 2005-2006 in India, there were many development projects and they all had a credit component. None of them were professional, micro-finance programs.

In 2006-2007, many people recognized that they were behind the rest of the world. We realized the same. Many people were asking “Invest equity, we need long-term capital to make professional banks do more”.

To give an example, at Goodwell, we established our first India fund in 2006-2007, the market was there and many people did not have access to finance. It was not a very well developed sector. We had seen in Latin America and some places in Asia that it could be a very good investment so the timing of our entry in the market was very good. What I never liked, knowing people’s priorities, was that the Indian microfinance system was only focused on loans, loans, loans.

One way or the other, you are doing the wrong thing. Having seen the development of the sector in other markets, we realized that one day India will allow microfinance institutions to take savings.

That happened at a point in time when microfinance institutions were also allowed to apply for a license to take in deposits.

Photo: Unsplash

Ten licenses were handed out in 2016, 3 of the companies in our portfolio got such a license. That was a dream come true. We knew we could do the right thing for the people and build stronger institutions as institutions that are funded only with inter-banking funds are less stable that have a deposit-base.

Overall, things are moving forward, but there is still a lot of opportunities of course.

 

4 – M-I: What do you want our readers to remember about microfinance?

Els: That it is business, not philanthropy. There are many different visions of impact investing. For us, it really is about both, maximizing profits and the social impact. The bigger the social impact, the bigger also the financial returns.

 


V – BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR

1 – M-I: Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur?

Els: Yes, absolutely. My partner and I had to set up the fund business. We started with 3 million euros from private investors in the Netherlands. People had confidence in what we were doing. There was some risk but they knew that they could also lose their money on the stock exchange. At the same time, they acknowledged that if they would lose it in a developing country, at least they knew their money helped.

 

Photo: Unsplash

2 – M-I: Is being an entrepreneur hard for you, as you were not trained to be one?

Els: No, my parents and grandparents were entrepreneurs. As a kid, I told myself “Never, ever, will I be an entrepreneur”. The headache, the responsibilities, it always looks easy but it is damn difficult to be an entrepreneur. Even the successful entrepreneurs have had struggles. It was in my gene and now I am perfectly comfortable doing it.

 

3 – M-I: So you learned by doing?

Els: Yes, I think you mostly learn as you are doing. Being an entrepreneur is very much about problem solving, on a daily basis.

Therefore, at a point in time, you know that you will have to solve yourself even the biggest of problems so you are not even stressed anymore because you know that it is part of your work.

 

4 – M-I: Are you working 24/7 or are you sometimes relying on your partner?

Els: Personally, I do not believe in working over the weekends. You cannot to be a sharp investor otherwise. You need a fresh and creative mind. Creativity is very important in this kind of job. Good investors are also good in deductive reasoning, combining information and drawing the right conclusions, and for that, you need a well-rested mind. Nonetheless, during the week, we all work very hard.

 

Photo: Unsplash

5 – M-I: What is the most rewarding thing about having your own company?

Els: Being able to take all of the decisions yourself. Of course as we invest investors’ money, there is a framework, but within it, you take your own decisions. If you see an opportunity, you can go after it. You are building something. To build up something is very rewarding and that is what I am enjoying.

 

6 – M-I: You got the “2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Award”. What is it and what does it mean to you?

Els: I am a member of an international network of women entrepreneurs called United Success. It gathers women entrepreneurs from around the globe, many in emerging markets. There was a competition in the U.S., they nominated me in the “over $100 million in annual sales revenues” category and this is how I won it. As a woman entrepreneur, it meant a lot to be recognized amongst my peers.

 


If you wish to learn more about Monaco Impact and/or are interested to

become a member, please send an e-mail to info@monaco-impact.org


 

Our previous interviews:

1. Florian Stengele’s interview on what it takes to be an entrepreneur: here!

2. Francien Giraudi’s interview on her association helping children:  here!

3. Laura DeVere’s interview regarding her foundation: here!