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SEB's microfinance funds reach 18 million entrepreneurs

"The benefits of loans are indescribable. Now I am a proud woman at a whole new level", says Jacinta. She has used micro loans to start two butcheries and a shop. SEB's microfinance funds today reach 18 million entrepreneurs in developing countries. The fifth fund was recently closed – fully subscribed.

“Interest in the funds has been very keen,” says Håkan Brodin at Asset Management Sales in SEB’s Large Corporates & Financial Institutions division. “Our work on educating and informing people about what microfinancing is and how it works has really borne fruit since we first launched this type of fund.”

SEB was first in Europe to offer microfinancing funds in local currency aimed at institutional investors. Since the start 2013 the bank has started five funds, giving investors an attractive investment, with a clear social profile, where the funds are used for creating growth and employment in developing countries.

The first fund matures next year, and in May 2018 the planned fund number 6 will close. During this time SEB has raised 7 billion Swedish kronor, and reached more than 18 million entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia and South America.

“When we started, our goal was to educate people about microfinancing, with trips for investors along with meetings and seminars to create an understanding about what we do in reality,” says Hans Hellenborg, Asset Management Sales, SEB.

This has been a long-term and challenging endeavour, but rewarding at the same time. Brodin and Hellenborg describe how SEB’s employees and customers have both shed tears and laughed together with entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world.

In order to provide taste of how it feels to meet these proud entrepreneurs SEB together with the international partner Symbiotics have produced a film where you can meet some of the female entrepreneurs that have been able to change their life thanks to micro loans.

There is no question that the funds have attracted attention among customers, but recently the initiative grabbed headlines at the UN’s Financing for Development Forum at the UN headquarters in New York, where the Swedish government cited the work as a good example of Sweden’s work toward Agenda 2030 and on achieving the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals.

“Some people wonder if the market isn’t soon saturated with this type of funds. But when you consider that 2 billion people lack access to basic financial services, it’s not a tough question – we have quite a ways to go before poverty is eliminated,” says Brodin.