The World of Microcredits
This company has its headquarters in Zurich and Geneva, and branches in France, India, Kenya, Peru, Norway, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Thailand. It specialises in microfinance in the following five areas: finance, agriculture, renewable energy, health and education. In agriculture, for example, it strengthens cooperatives and farming that operates sustainably, in finance it supports microfinance banks; in the field of energy, it finances domestic solar power systems for low earners; in health and education, it supports networking and improvements in the IT field. Its involvements are long-term and worldwide: for example in Central and South America (28.1%) in the Middle East and North Africa (4.7%), in sub-Saharan Africa (10%), in Central Asia (26.2%), in the Asia Pacific region (22%) and in Eastern Europe (7.4%). Detailed figures for equity and debt investments are now available for 2014: 2.44 billion dollars in assets under management. That is an increase of 527 million dollars compared with 2013, and of 516 million dollars compared with 2012. ResponsAbility AG has been in existence since 2003. It started with four million dollars and invested the money in sustainable agriculture and microfinance. Today, it has 184 employees of 37 nationalities working in nine locations. The company is one of the few finance businesses working in the field of sustainable investments. In 2014, it financed 531 small and medium-sized businesses in 93 countries.
Creating long-term value
The company provides unlisted companies in emerging economies and developing countries with debt and equity financing. ResponsAbility AG is represented by Klaus Tischhauser (CEO and co-founder), Kaspar Müller (Chairman of the Board of Directors), and by Ursula Lang, Rochus Mommartz, Karin Schoch, Christian Speckhardt, Adrian Töngi, Stephen Brenninkmeijer as members of the Board of Directors. In its annual report, the board of ResponsAbility stresses that they regard it as a priority to finance people’s access to clean energy and to increase the energy efficiency of companies in which people invest. This meant that, as at 31.12.2014, 712,000 MWh p.a. had been saved year-on-year, corresponding to 266,000 tonnes of CO2 p.a.
In 2014, in the field of agriculture, a total of 183.7 million dollars was provided to 95 companies in 38 countries in sectors such as coffee, grain and seeds, fruits and vegetables, cocoa, nuts, herbs, spices and oils. Special attention was paid to tara, chia and pomegranate. In total, 28% of the finance went to organic agricultural products and 24% was for fair trade products. A total of 107,960 small farmers were reached.
In the financial sector in 2014, financial institutes with a total of 32.4 million small borrowers were financed worldwide. The credit portfolio amounted to 53 billion dollars, and the client savings accounts managed by the microfinance institutes were worth 40.8 billion dollars. On average, the small borrowers borrowed 1,662 US dollars over a period of 21.8 months. 49% of the borrowers lived in rural areas and 77% of the small loans went to women.
In 2014, a total of 231.8 million dollars was invested in the sustainable energy sector.
A transparent financial sector that works for sustainability is a key factor in the development and resilience of an economy. Microfinance is an engine of growth in Kenya, as well as in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Peru, Ecuador and Mongolia. There are alternative banks throughout those countries, and in Switzerland too (www.abs.ch). responAbility’s investment philosophy is based on simple observation. In developing countries and emerging economies, the unsatisfied needs of people on low incomes and of small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly being met by companies with innovative business models. ReponsAbility targets its investments there so that these companies can exploit the market potential better and more quickly. Debt or equity capital is invested in companies whose business models overcome obstacles such as a lack of availability, affordability and adequacy of goods and services. The emphasis is on responsible behaviour towards clients, their own employees and the environment as the basis for long-term success.
ResponsAbility AG gathers money through nine different funds, and 2.4 billion dollars were made available for investment worldwide in 2014. Through partners, cooperation and memberships, it offers the possibility of making a private or institutional investment worldwide, for asset managers and banks too, both fixed-income and in equities, in all five areas from agriculture to education. Net returns in the microfinance fund are on average between three and five percent, in Swiss francs as well as in euros and US dollars; see ISIN LU0302153209 and A0MSUJ (WKN) bearer shares, minimum investment: A-class 1,000 euros and I-class one million euros, annual distribution, redemption of units quarterly, subject to 45 calendar days’ notice, sales authorization Luxembourg.
Author: Uwe Heitkamp
Photos: © responsAbility Investments AG | “Perspectives 2015/16”, Jerry Riley + Jürg Waldmeier
ResponsAbility AG presents several of the projects it finances in Asia on its website.