Triodos Bank’s Executive Board provides a perspective on the wider world it operates in, its impact and activity in 2017 and its prospects for the future.
Hannes Manndorff, Director Dawn Myanmar
What challenge was the inspiration for the project?
When Accion began looking to invest in Myanmar some 2½ years ago, less than 20% of the population had access to formal financial services and there were very few microfinance providers operating in the country. While Myanmar had embarked on a political and economic reform process, it was still the third poorest country in Asia. The vast un-tapped microfinance market, coupled with low capacity, poor infrastructure and a very uncertain regulatory environment, provided both an opportunity as well as a challenge that we were committed to tackle.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
Accion teamed up with Triodos Investment Management and FMO, two institutions with whom we have had a long and fruitful history of collaboration, to bid for the only MFI in the country that was open to an acquisition: Save the Children’s Dawn Microfinance. After winning the competitive bid, the consortium successfully transferred the operation, including all staff and assets, from Save the Children to a new for profit entity, with basically no disruption for clients and staff. This acquisition and transformation provided a huge advantage vis-à-vis starting an operation from scratch, which would have been the only alternative for providing high quality financial services to unbanked masses in Myanmar. The institutional transformation of what was a program of Save the Children into an independent, for profit microfinance company, licensed by the Central Bank was truly ground breaking in Myanmar at the time.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on the business?
Triodos Investment Management, FMO and Accion came together to take over a fledgling MFI in Myanmar at a time when there was still a lot of political, economic and regulatory uncertainty. The unity and commitment of all three investors to turn DAWN into a leading best practice MFI convinced Save the Children to sell the entity to the consortium. Both Triodos and FMO brought a lot of experience and credibility to the deal, which positively influenced the regulators to provide the necessary approvals and licences for the transaction. Triodos has also brought a lot of value through its involvement at the governance level of DAWN, with Femke Bos, fund manager of Triodos Microfinance Fund, as a highly engaged member of the board of directors and Chair of the Audit Committee. In addition, DAWN has already benefited from the broader relationships Triodos has in the region, for example through the facilitation of a field visit some leading MFIs in Cambodia, which helped the organisation to gain exposure to best practices in governance, management, and operations.
What impact has your business had on the sector it works in?
Since the consortium took over Dawn in March 2015, the outreach has doubled in terms of number of active clients served to 54,000. The consortium investors are also striving to influence the development of the sector both through becoming a leading example for high-quality microfinance in Myanmar and by actively engaging with the regulators and the broader financial inclusion community.
What impact has the business had on the community?
Because of the investment made by Triodos Investment Management, FMO and Accion, DAWN has been able to rapidly expand its services to new geographies and serve thousands of new formerly unbanked clients. Since the take-over, clients have also benefited from streamlined products, shorter turn-around times and lower fees. The investors and DAWN are committed to further strengthening and expanding the product offering, improve the customer experience and reach at least 200,000 active clients within the next four years.
How does Triodos Bank share the vision behind the project?
Since the early days of the partnership, Triodos Investment Management, FMO and Accion have shared the same vision for Myanmar and DAWN, i.e. to use DAWN as a vehicle to foster financial inclusion in the country, develop a best practice model MFI, contribute to the development of the financial sector and look for both a financial and social return with long-term view.