A balanced financial approach
For 40 years, Oikocredit has balanced its social and financials returns. For the full year 2014, Oikocredit recorded another set of solid financial results. In acknowledgment of Oikocredit’s strong financial results, we spoke with our finance director, Irene van Oostwaard, and treasury & reporting specialist, Max Ogier, about their work in the finance department and how they find a social balance in their work as financial specialists.
In your opinion, what makes Oikocredit different from other financial institutions?
Irene: “For me, it’s the ‘finance plus’ approach, where the organisation focusses equally on financial returns, social returns and empowering people. For me as a financial expert working together with colleagues who have a more socially oriented background has broadened my scope and creates a good working balance.”
Max: “The main reason I joined Oikocredit 10 years ago was the social aspect of the organization. Coming from a commercial company where the main focus was making a profit, I liked Oikocredit’s mix of financial and social outcomes. The combination of being sustainable, socially relevant and the wide international presence also attracted me.”
What makes Oikocredit’s financial department interesting to work in?
Irene: “We are a relatively small department and need to take on every challenge ourselves in this growing organization. This means we can all be really hands-on and involved and take initiative in maintaining and improving all processes.”
Max: “At some point, all aspects of the organisation flow through the finance department, from the administration of salaries and expenses to disbursement to and repayment from partners to reporting on plans for the future or results. In my role as treasury and reporting specialist, I am very much involved in all kinds of issues regarding cash flow and covering risk related to our high foreign currency exposures. Next to that, reporting on and analysing Oikocredit’s developments gives a good insight into where we stand and where we are heading.”
How does Oikocredit’s social mission come into light in your role as a financial expert?
Irene: “In everything we do in fact, although it may not seem as evident as when you are working in the field. Our internal and external reports are balanced and need to show both financial and social results. When we look at our term investment portfolio or the banks we work with, we also look if they are in line with our ethical principles.”
Max: “We are often in contact with our partners to assist them with solving all kinds of cash management issues. In the end our work is focussed on keeping the high social standard that Oikocredit is renowned for.”
In your opinion, how could the financial sector adopt more socially responsible practices?
Irene: “I think the financial crisis showed that a successful and sustainable organization needs to put their clients’ needs first and builds their business model and team around that. I believe the financial sector could put more emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Most organisations have programmes like this in place; however I believe more organizations could actually integrate it in the very basis of their business models.”
Max: “I agree. Taking small steps in implementing ethical criteria within the organizational structure and replacing solely financial return by a mix of financial and social return could make a big difference to the financial sector. Oikocredit has proven in the past 40 years that a focus on both financial and social impacts is not only sustainable, but also provides investors with an ethical return.”