Xavier Sabatier is head of finance at Bamboo Capital Partners.
Could you tell us more about your background? What are your current responsibilities within Bamboo Capital Partners (Bamboo)?
Before joining Bamboo in 2013, I was a manager in the Accounting and Tax practice of PwC Luxembourg where I was involved in various assignments, mainly in the private equity sector. During nine and a half years, I built up expertise in consulting project management, accounting and tax advice, and business development. In 2010, I attended a training session on International Cooperation and North/South Relations organised by the Belgian Cooperation Agency. I took a sabbatical in 2011, volunteering as a consultant for an NGO in Cairo that assists orphans and street children in Egypt and travelled across Central and Eastern Europe and Asia.
I met Jean-Philippe de Schrevel, the Founder and Managing Partner of Bamboo at a sustainability event. I found Bamboo’s proposition really interesting and when I learned they were hiring in Luxembourg, I applied for the position. I was hired as the first employee in Luxembourg to organise the finance function between the Management Company (MANCO), advisory firms and the regional offices in Switzerland, Colombia, Kenya and Singapore. I am currently Head of Finance and responsible for Bamboo’s corporate structure and fund management co-ordination. I am also member of the MANCO board and assist in business development. There are currently three of us in Luxembourg.
Could you describe how Bamboo is involved in inclusive finance? And what makes it different from the other inclusive finance actors?
Bamboo is a pioneering private equity firm which delivers positive social and financial returns by investing in businesses in emerging markets that leverage technology to deliver at scale. Bamboo invests in businesses in three main sectors: energy, healthcare, and of course, financial inclusion. Since its creation, Bamboo has raised a total of $235 million in two inclusive finance funds and a further $65 million in other impact sectors.
Bamboo stands out from its competitors in the inclusive finance sector because it focuses solely on equity, allowing it to have a direct, lasting impact on the companies it invests in, with an experienced team of staff across the world. Bamboo’s work is characterised by the acquisition of equity interests in microfinance institutions (MFIs) to support their growth and transformation into banks, based mainly in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Bamboo has long understood the importance of utilising technology for low-income populations. The second inclusive finance fund, created in 2014, focused particularly on fintech and SME banks. The fund invested in a peer-to-peer lending platform in Mexico and credit scoring company for MFIs in Africa, amongst other businesses.
Bamboo also places emphasis on the transparency of its activities in terms of the impact it generates. The business participates in capacity building workshops in order to strengthen and disseminate good practices in the area of impact investing. Reports on the social and environmental performance of Bamboo’s portfolio are regularly published and the funds are subject to external assessment, for example, the Oasis Fund was awarded “Best for the World Fund” by B-Lab for the last two years.
What are the projects you are currently working on/Bamboo is currently developing?
As previously mentioned, in addition to inclusive finance, we have identified two sectors that are extremely promising in terms of delivering impact at scale within a reasonably short timeframe of five to seven years: solar off-grid energy and healthcare.
We are developing two funds dedicated to these sectors. The first – Bamboo Energy Access Multiplier (“BEAM”) – focusses primarily on access to solar off-grid energy through distributable energy services companies (DESCos) in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia. The second – Bamboo Healthcare Fund (“HEAL”) – is aimed at building a healthcare ecosystem that provides affordable quality primary care in South and South East Asia, integrating healthcare delivery platforms and disruptive technologies.
Besides these in-house initiatives, we have recently partnered with CARE Enterprises (CEI), a for-profit subsidiary of CARE USA, to alleviate poverty in South East Asia. The strategic partnership will initially begin investing in early stage companies that benefit the most marginalised communities in the region. On top of that, as Bamboo is a SME with an entrepreneurial mind-set – we are constantly exploring further business development opportunities.
What is your key interest in inclusive finance?
I became personally interested in inclusive finance when I started to think of solutions that could make the world a better to live for the entire population. I realised that access to finance was probably the key to unlocking many difficult situations, and on top of that, it works!
Whatever the amount, it suddenly gives the beneficiary a more breathing room and opens up a new world of opportunities. It is only when your basic needs are covered that you can start building, step-by-step, a better future for yourself and your community, and that dreaming becomes possible again. At the core of it, my interest is actually in improved the lives of people around the world.
What are the biggest challenges for inclusive finance and how can Luxembourg and InFiNe.lu contribute to it?
The big challenge is to raise awareness of the importance of universal access to financial services, not only in emerging markets, but in our own countries too. It is important to build awareness and InFiNe.lu has a role to play. The authorities must also contribute to creating initiatives that seek to integrate those excluded from the traditional financing system work. The idea is to not only put in place a supportive environment for these initiatives, because everyone deserves a fair chance, but also to attract capital to this kind of project, leveraging the Luxembourg financial market and its expertise.