Stockholm (NordSIP) – Triple Jump, the Netherlands-based impact-focused investment management company providing responsible investment opportunities in developing countries, was impossible to miss at last week’s TBLI Nordic conference, with founder Mark van Doesburgh and senior investor relations officer Dirk de Vlaam merrily engaging anyone with a spare moment and an open mind. Triple Jump, which has €740mn in AUM, has reached 565,000 clients in the course of its 11 years of existence, investing in microfinance and SMEs from Asia, Latin America and Africa to the occupied Palestinian territories and beyond across its five funds. Its mission is to help develop a responsible, inclusive financial sector that can enable people in developing countries to unlock their potential and improve their quality of life. NordSIP caught up with a jovial Mark van Doesburgh in between back-to-back meetings with investors at Nasdaq Stockholm to find out more about the company and its objectives at TBLI Nordic.
“We manage assets invested in emerging countries, working in 75 countries with five regional offices across the globe,” van Doesburgh tells NordSIP. “Our investing is in financial service providers and funds, who then on-lend or invest in small institutions, small entrepreneurs or SMEs. In our portfolio we manage five funds, all with different mandates but basically all of which invest in micro-financing institutions or banks or funds.” The ultimate goal, he says, is to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the ground level: “Africa and Asia are really important regions for us, so in order to manage our funds well and keep our clients happy, we put our investment team directly on the ground.”
Boots on the Ground
A company of 75 people, 40 Triple Jump employees operate out of Amsterdam, with the other 35 allocated to its five regional offices. “That’s where the fund and investment officers go out for prospecting, finding the right institutions, and come in with appraisals, which we then approve,” van Doesburgh explains. “So, for example, we have one retail fund – it’s called the ASN-Novib Microcredit fund, that was established by the ASN bank, one of the largest social and ethical banks in the Netherlands. One interesting detail is that it’s the only listed fund in the world focusing on financial service providers and micro-finance which has high liquidity, so investors can invest as little as €50, and can step in or step out any given day.”
The ASN-Novib Microcredit fund was incepted almost 20 years ago, in 1998. Its initial growth, van Doesburgh recounts, was fairly slow, but it has done well over the past decade and is now worth €270mn, showing consistent and decent returns. “Of course, in this low-interest rate environment, those returns are also down a bit, but we’re proud to say we’ve never had a negative year,” he related. “And even in this low-interest environment, when we make – the average over the last 5 years has been three per cent – we still have decent returns. It’s not stellar, but it’s very stable. Right now, that’s not bad.”
Triple Jump’s other four funds – the Dutch Good Growth fund, Oxfam Novib, the MicroBuild fund and the Triple Jump Innovation fund – cover different areas and have different mandates, but all of them, as their names suggest, conform to the mandate of abetting and realising the SDGs. So what are van Doesburgh and partner Dirk de Vlaam doing at TBLI Nordic, besides (very effectively) spreading the gospel? “Our purpose here is really to look for new investors. We have never been in the Nordics before, and we want to see what’s happening here and how keen investors here are to go into the impact investment space,” van Doesburgh smiles. “We’re talking with pension fund managers, so we’re expecting something from them… ”
“…and they expect something from us, which is fair. They want to understand what impact is. And when we look at impact, it’s about being able to demonstrate the loop from the financial institution through to the ultimate beneficiary. For example, when we provide a loan of 2 million to a financial institution in Kenya, and they make 10,000 loans, we cannot measure the impact of all these 10,000 clients, but we can at least measure how this financial institution is measuring their client, and how they measure if there’s job growth, employment, revenue growth of the companies, how many women are employed. In our overall portfolio, 78% are women clients.”
(Clean) Sky’s the limit
Van Doesburgh is Dutch, after all! But this is a high rate, even for the famously egalitarian Dutch. “The mandate from the funds we manage is to target women entrepreneurs. So that is what we do!,” he laughs. Very successfully, apparently, though the broader point is that it reflects the broader portfolio ethic across Triple Jump’s initiatives. “Other mandates for our funds is to reach out to rural clients, so we also have a lot of agriculture in the portfolio. We also really focus on job generation, especially for youth and to help forestall migration, so that people can have a future in their own country.”
And with that, Triple Jump’s mission becomes tangible: to try to solve the societal challenges in the world. “All of them?,” I ask. “All of them,” he smiles. “At least contribute to the solutions, let’s put it like that. The themes we focus on is financial inclusion of agriculture, small and medium enterprises, social housing funding, and more recently clean energy, the big challenge for the next 20 years.”
Part of Triple Jump’s mission statement reads: “We believe that opportunities are not spread equally around the world, but talented people are.” In talking to Mark van Doesburgh, the slogan jumps to life – triply so, one might say.
Image: (c) racorn – shutterstock