Successful Nordic public-private microfinance partnership
“We are working actively on attracting more capital and new investors to Fund IV, the fund which was launched in connection with our ten-year anniversary in June 2018”, explains Arthur Sletteberg in an interview with Ferd Magazine. Arthur Sletteberg, who is the Managing Director of NMI, regards it as a vote of confidence that NMI’s existing investors gave binding commitments amounting to about NOK 840 million when the new fund was launched. In this first phase, Norfund, Norway’s state-owned fund that invests in developing countries, and its Danish counterpart, the Investment Fund for Developing Countries, each put in USD 30 million, while Ferd, DNB and KLP, which are private-sector investors in NMI, each contributed USD 15 million. NMI is now focused on bringing in a little more capital. The institution would also like to attract more investors, particularly from Sweden and Finland, as well as, and just as importantly, private-sector organisations from Denmark.
NMI’s public-private collaboration model is part of its foundations, and this has been the case since Ferd owner Johan H. Andresen launched the initiative to set up the institution.
“In addition to providing us with a stable ownership structure and financial strength, the model makes it easier to exercise high-quality ownership. We have access to more expertise, a more extensive network, and more perspectives on how to achieve results in geographic areas which often have very different challenges and conditions”, explains Arthur Sletteberg.
NMI invests in local microfinance institutions that have both social and financial targets and that are serious organisations with growth ambitions. In a first phase, NMI typically offers debt financing, but as trust gradually increases, it can also contribute equity capital, usually by taking a 10%-30% ownership interest. NMI also always sets up a collaboration with an institution’s management to assist with financial and technical expertise in order to help it to professionalise and grow. Finally, it is important to NMI that the institutions in which it invests gradually become able to offer individuals other financial services in addition to small loans over time.
Seeing the results for themselves
This autumn, NMI organised a trip to India for existing and potential investors so that they could see for themselves that microfinance works.
“It was fascinating and instructive. And really satisfying to see that the institutions in which NMI invests really make a difference for lots of people”, summarises Christian Halvorsen. Christian Halvorsen’s day job is Head of Risk Allocation at the group level at Ferd, but he is also very involved in NMI, and serves on both on its Investment Committee and as deputy representative for Johan H. Andresen on NMI’s Board of Directors.
In his capacity as a representative for investors in NMI, Christian Halvorsen can state that NMI's results have exceeded the initial expectations, both socially and financially. Currently, around 10 million end-users, 95% of whom are women, have been given new opportunities and a better life thanks to NMI’s activities. At the same time, the investors have enjoyed an attractive return relative to the markets in which the funds are invested.
“And although we would like to see a broader investor base, Ferd will continue to be a major, long-term investor. Both our owner and those of us who work in this area at Ferd are strongly committed to microfinance as a tool for creating development and for helping the poor to achieve a better life. And it is fantastic to see that NMI is an example of how social and financial results can be mutually reinforcing”, comments Christian Halvorsen.