The Foundation’s job interview: Investment Officer

In the early years of its existence, the Foundation focused on financing microfinance institutions, gradually specializing in smaller institutions, located in rural areas and mainly benefiting women who develop small income-generating activities.

In this interview you will discover the testimony of Sébastien Simonot, Investment Officer, who explains his job.

In a few words, what is your Investment Officer Job about?

The investment officer job consists of establishing and developing sustainable partnerships with microfinance institutions, and organisations that provide financial and non-financial services to low-income population.
A big part of our job is devoted to identifying these potential partners, through an in-depth analysis of their financial, social and environmental performances. The first phase is desk review, on a basis of the documents the institution sent us, and then on site during our due diligences missions. We also regularly exchange with the institutions we already have in our portfolio to evaluate the evolution of their financial, social and environmental performances, and to assess their financial and technical needs in order to strengthen our partnerships.

What was your path? Is there a typical career path to be an Investment Officer?

I started my career in commercial banking, first at Crédit Lyonnais, then at Crédit Agricole CIB. After a detour into the humanitarian field, I moved into the microfinance sector a dozen years ago, approximately when the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation was created. During these 12 years, I led management and consulting missions for microfinance institutions in Haiti and Africa. I joined the Foundation in the summer of 2020, and I cover for it several areas in Africa as well as the Middle East.
I would say that there is no typical career path at the Foundation. The Investment Officer profiles are varied, but they have a common trait. We all have training and experience in economics and finance, coupled with exposure to the field of development and humanitarian work.

What are the strengths of your job?

This job gives us the opportunity to observe the innovation that microfinance institutions bring to their services to vulnerable populations. Despite the difficult contexts in which they must operate. The in-depth analysis of these institutions, particularly through on-site visits, and meetings with their clients, reminds us of the Foundation’s ambitions: to promote social entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. Finally, on the cross-functional aspect of the job, an Investment Officer works with all the Foundation’s teams: Middle Office, Risk, Technical Assistance, and Communication.

Why did you choose the Foundation?

The sector of financial inclusion has grown considerably in the recent decades. Many funds exist to support these institutions, both financially and technically. From the outset, the Foundation has equipped itself with the tools to intervene with small institutions with a high social impact. On the other hand, it has been able to intervene in areas where many other operators did not intervene, in fragile countries, particularly from an economic, social and climatic point of view. Today we have significant feedback experience in many countries, particularly in Africa, which contributes to the strength of our identity.

Watch the interview

New Solidarity Bankers mission in Kosovo

©FONDATION GRAMEEN CREDIT AGRICOLE/GODONG

At the initiative of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A, skills volunteering missions Solidarity Bankers are offered to employees of the Crédit Agricole Group on behalf of organisations supported by the Foundation. A new Solidarity Bankers mission is to be filled in favor of agency for finance (AFK) in Kosovo. The institution was created in the years 2000 and have obtained the status of microfinance institution in 2011.

AFK aims to improve living conditions in Kosovo by providing access to sustainable financial services to small and micro enterprises. As of December 2021, the organisation has 24 branches across Kosovo and 225 employees. It serves 20,733 active borrowers (23% women and 50% in rural areas) and manages a portfolio of 40.2 million euros.

AFK has developed a risk policy focused on credit risk while the other risk areas are managed by each department without a formalized framework. Given its growing size, the institution would like to structure a proper risk management framework to improve identification and analysis of risks, especially operational risks. The Solidarity Banker will be responsible for supporting AFK in the diagnosis of the procedure and tools to manage risks and more precisely operational risks.

To discover the details of this mission click here.

How to apply

To apply send your CV as well as one or two paragraphs explaining your motivation and expertise to carolina.viguet@credit-agricole-sa.fr

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Created in 2008, under the joint impetus of the directors of Crédit Agricole S.A. and Professor Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Grameen Bank, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is a cross-business actor that contributes to the fight against poverty through financial inclusion and entrepreneurship with a social impact. As an investor, lender, technical assistance coordinator and fund advisor, the Foundation supports microfinance institutions and social enterprises in nearly 40 countries.

[INTERVIEW] Humo, a beneficiary of the Solidarity Bankers programme

© EBRD

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018. The programme has a twofold objective: on the one hand, support microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation with technical assistance, and on the other hand, enhance the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with high social impact.

HUMO is a microfinance institution in Tajikistan, which aims to support vulnerable and underserved populations living in rural areas through financial and advisory services for small businesses. Julien Leroy, Innovation Leader at CA-CIB accompanied the institution in the transformation of its business.

Feedback on the programme with the interview of Firdavs Mayunusov, Finance Officer at HUMO.

1) Why was the optimization of your business model important for your institution?

The financial sector has long been one of the most conservative and non-digitalized industries in the world. Experience shows that the introduction of innovations and new technologies dramatically increases competitiveness and improves customer experience. However, for the development of innovations and cutting-edge solutions, it is important to reengineer the business model and organizational structure.

17 years ago, Humo was launched to improve access to finance and social development in Tajikistan. Today, the requirements for financial products are changing rapidly. It is important to constantly evolve and transform into a tech company, not just a financial institution. This is the key to reaching the mission and unlocking the potential of the region. Therefore, we have begun the digital transformation and are making the company structure more flexible and product-oriented.

2) What did you expect from the Solidarity Banker? Do the results match your expectations?

Humo expected advice and guidance on business transformation. Thanks to Solidarity Bankers, we were able not only to understand our weaknesses, but also to find new opportunities for growth and reinforce business model. Now, two years later, we have implemented most of the recommendations and started digital transformation. We were able to take a fresh look at the business model and develop a transformation strategy. The results exceeded expectations.

3) What were the priorities defined following the recommendations made?

We thought about the role of innovation and organizational change for business development. The company must be more flexible and faster to compete in the market. First of all, we opened a new Product Department to manage cutting-edge financial solutions. Then we began to rethink the customer experience and opened a Sales Department. Finally started digital transformation and implemented agile methodologies. This made it possible to become one of the most technological players on the market.

4) 2 years and a bunch of Covid-19 waves later, what is the major mark the Solidarity Banker left at Humo? 

Over the years, Humo has changed the organizational structure, strengthened the business model, and identified opportunities. Optimized core business processes and minimized bureaucracy. The company has become more agile, strategy-focused and has launched several digital products. We attracted new user segments and became one of the leading FinTech in Tajikistan. Thanks to the Solidarity Banker, Humo was able to choose the right path of development and realize the potential for growth. Today Humo is undisputedly one of the recognized market leaders despite the challenges of Covid-19, legislation, and socio-economic development.

 

 

The Foundation is a signatory to the Client Protection Pathway

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is proud to be a signatory of the Cerise + SPTF Client Protection Pathway. The Client Protection Pathway guides providers in implementing the Client Protection Standards, which are the essential practices for excellence in consumer protection in terms of product design & delivery, prevention of over-Indebtedness, transparency, responsible pricing, fair & respectful treatment of clients, privacy of client data, and mechanisms for complaints resolution.

The Client Protection Pathway is a tool developed by CERISE* and the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF)** to help financial service providers commit, make and share progress and even certify to client protection standards.

Edouard Sers, Head of Risk, Compliance and Impact at the Foundation expresses enthusiasm over the launch of the client protection pathway: “When the Smart Campaign closed last year, I was concerned that the industry might lose its focus on client protection. As a partner of 76 MFIs in Sub Saharan Africa, South East Asia, South Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation pays great attention to their practices during each due diligence and stands ready to accompany them in their path to excellence in client protection, through financing and technical assistance. I am thrilled that CERISE and the SPTF take up this important role in our industry.”

It is only through collective action that we can ensure the stability of the industry, even more so in these times of climate change and pandemic. The Foundation therefore highly encourages its partners to prioritize client protection and join this major initiative.

 

Download the joint Declaration

 


*CERISE is an organization created in 1998 which promotes responsible, inclusive and ethical finance and works with various actors in the sector to co-create free social standard and social assessment tools.

** SPTF is a non-profit organization that seeks to develop and promote standards and good practices for social performance management to make financial services safer for clients.

 

The Foundation, contributes to the 1st edition of the Impact Finance Barometer

 

The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation is a partner of the first edition of the Impact Finance Barometer launched at the Global Forum Zero Exclusion, Zero Carbon, Zero Poverty on September 2, 2021. This publication, coordinated by Convergences, is the result of the collective work of impact finance experts, analysts, investors and microfinance institutions. It confronts different visions of impact investing and financial inclusion in the world.

Under the theme “Financing social and environmental transitions”, this Barometer presents key figures of the sector and the levers for the development of inclusive finance that serves people and the planet. How to redirect funding towards an impact project? How to connect investors and project leaders? Is there a common metric of impact?

This edition also deals with financial inclusion in the face of the Covid-19 crisis and more specifically with the impact of this crisis on microfinance institutions.

Edouard Sers, Head of Risk, Compliance and Impact at the Foundation spoke on this subject during the 3Zero Global Forum:

“The Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on microfinance institutions (MFIs) partner of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation. This impact however varies depending on the region and countries affected. The two main financial consequences of the crisis are an increased credit risk, which affects profitability (especially in 2020) and therefore, has an impact on equity. At the beginning of the year, 60% of the MFIs surveyed thought they needed new equity. In mid-2021, the latest surveys we conducted show that one in five MFIs are still looking for a way to recapitalize properly. In contrast, there has not been a generalized liquidity crisis and, despite the loss of profitability for many, the sector has shown overall responsibility in maintaining jobs. In order to support its partners, the Foundation continues to develop its funding and technical assistance offer. It also shares on a regular basis the conclusions of its Covid-19 Observatory based on surveys carried out in partnership with ADA and Inpulse to collect the feelings of actors in the field.”

Discover the Barometer here.

Discover the Report of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation : “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on microfinance institutions. Analyses and perspectives.

[INTERVIEW] The African Facility: technical assistance in favour of MLF Zambia

© MicroLoan Foundation (Zambia)

In 2013, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation created the “African Facility” technical assistance programme funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD).

This programme launched 9 years ago and ending in December 2021 enabled to carry out 326 technical assistance missions in favour of 26 partners of the Foundation for a total amount of 3,52 mln euros in grants.

Feedback on the programme with the testimony of Jack NGOMA – MLF Zambia’s Executive Director

Created in 2008, MLF Zambia is a Tier 3 microfinance institution (loan portfolio < 10 million USD). The institution offers credit products and training to a clientele of almost 23,000 women as of December 2020, in rural areas, for an outstanding loan portfolio of €830,217. Within the technical assistance programme of the African Facility, financed by the French Development Agency and coordinated by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation, MLF Zambia was assisted in developing a business plan for the 2021-2025 period. The consultant in charge of the mission, Thomas Lendzian, from Tukumuka Consulting, helped the institution define its strategy and an operational action plan in order to expand to new areas and to find new funding sources.

Why was the development of a business plan important for your institution?

An external perspective was needed to analyse the microfinance market in Zambia in depth, to enable us to position ourselves clearly and to strengthen our competitiveness. In addition, we wanted to effectively communicate our long-term goals to stakeholders, including potential investors. The support of the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been very helpful at every stage of the business plan development.

What did you expect from the consultant? Did the results meet your expectations?

We were looking for a firm with a solid expertise in microfinance and experience in the field that would enable us to improve our business planning process. Thomas Lendzian, from the local consultancy firm Tukumuka Consulting, was the perfect fit and it turned out to be a very good and relevant choice. His knowledge of Zambia, and other countries in Africa, as well as his understanding of the industry trends have been very useful.

The business plan has helped us in gaining a better understanding of the local sector and in accurately defining our growth projections. We are now equipped to compete on the market and have clarified our long-term objectives. The development of this business plan has also enabled us to communicate our organisational objectives more clearly to our staff and other stakeholders, and to reach out to potential investors.

What are the priorities defined in the business plan? 

Among the strategic pillars of the five-year business plan, we aim to achieve significant growth, with the goal of serving 80,000 customers by 2025. We also want to increase our operational efficiency through a revised lending methodology using agent networks and smart technology. We will also focus on product diversification to offer flexible credit products tailored to the needs and activities of our clients – especially agriculture. With this new business plan at hand, we also hope to establish strategic partnerships with relevant investors and business partners. Finally, key objectives for MLF Zambia in the years to come will be the strengthening of our social impact, client retention and the improvement of the lives of the women we are serving.

Solidarity Bankers : two online missions are to be filled in favor of FATEN and OXUS Kyrgyzstan

© Philippe LISSAC (Godong) / Foundation GCA

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering program launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018. The program has a twofold objective: on the one hand, support microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation with technical assistance, and on the other hand, enhance the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with high social impact.

Missions can take place during the Solidarity Banker’s working time and/or during holidays (volunteering).

Currently two online missions are available. The Solidarity Banker will work on this mission at the rate of one day per week during 15 weeks. However, these duration modalities can be modified according to the preferences of the Solidarity Banker, the beneficiary organization and the employer.

  • “Financial Management” mission for FATEN (Palestine)

FATEN is a microfinance institution created in 1995 by the NGO Save The Children. Its mission is to serve the financial services needs of low and middle-income Palestinian entrepreneurs and individuals. The Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been supporting FATEN since 2014 through various senior loans but also through technical assistance in the framework of Solidarity Bankers by CA.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support FATEN in updating financial procedures, policies and tools. The Solidarity Banker must know international financial reporting standards and in particular, the latest changes to IFRS 16 and IFRS 9. Fluency in English is mandatory and a good knowledge of Arabic is a plus.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

  • “Digital Strategy” mission for OXUS (Kyrgyzstan)

OXUS Kyrgyzstan (OKG) is a microfinance institution that provides financial services to the working poor and under-banked in Kyrgyzstan. The institution serves 8,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of EUR 6.4 million.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will support OKG in the evaluation of its digitalization processes and in the construction of a new digital strategy. The Solidarity Banker must have significant experience in IT project management. Fluency in English is mandatory and speaking Russian is an asset.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

To apply: send your CV and cover letter (or a few lines explaining why you are interested in the mission) to :

Solidarity Bankers : two field missions are to be filled in Georgia and Moldova

Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme launched by the Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018. The programme has a twofold objective: on the one hand, support microfinance institutions and social impact enterprises financed by the Foundation with technical assistance, and on the other hand, enhance the skills of Group employees who want to invest themselves in projects with high social impact.

Missions can take place during the Solidarity Banker’s working time and/or during holidays (volunteering).

Currently two missions are available on the field :

  • « Marketing » mission for Lazika Capital (Georgia)

 Lazika Capital is a microfinance institution created in 2000 by Oxfam Great Britain in Georgia. Its mission is to facilitate access to financial services for low and middle income entrepreneurs. Lazika Capital is among the leaders in the Georgian microfinance sector and has nearly 14,000 clients.

The selected Crédit Agricole expert will be responsible for evaluating the organisation’s marketing strategy and actions, as well as developing a marketing plan for the end of 2021/2022. The Solidarity Banker must have a solid experience in marketing and a good command of English.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

  • « Digital Strategy » mission for Smart Credit (Moldava)

Smart Credit is a microfinance institution created in 2010 by 5 local professionals having one same vision: providing financial services to socially disadvantaged people and small entrepreneurs in Moldova. The institution has more than 3,000 active borrowers and manages a portfolio of 4.4 million euros.

The Solidarity Banker will be in charge of helping to build the digital strategy of Smart Crédit. The expert is an employee of the Crédit Agricole Group who is fluent in English and has experience in IT project management.

For more information, download the term sheet on ca-solidaires.fr  

To apply : send your CV and cover letter (or a few lines explaining why you are interested in the mission) to :