An interview with Eric Campos, CEO, Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole

Eric Campos is the Managing Director of the Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole (GCA) since 1st October 2016. He came to the position after building a career in retail banking, both in France and abroad, as well as in development assistance.

How did you get involved in inclusive finance?

Throughout my career I have always worked in the field of real economy. I joined the Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole after gaining professional experience in the financial sector in France, Europe and internationally.

After my studies, I travelled to Africa to work on a rubber tree plantation where I was in charge of management control. I then joined the French Development Agency to carry out programme evaluation missions and development cooperation projects. That was in 1993, a time when development assistance was questioning how accurately funds were being used. I then turned to the retail banking sector to work in various development positions at Crédit Agricole’s headquarters as well as in overseas subsidiaries. So I came to banking through development assistance. In France, Crédit Agricole has a strong identity tied to its regions and their actors, which I felt drawn to. Inclusivity is implicit throughout its lending policies and emphasis is given to analysing the impact of its funding.

Could you describe the work done by the Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole in inclusive finance? And what makes it different from the other inclusive finance actors?

The foundation’s mission is to participate in creating a fairer distribution of the benefits of growth. The foundation explores how to provide access to growth to as many people as possible.

The foundation vocation is to provide funds, but also support by offering technical assistance to small microfinance institutions (MFIs) active in rural areas. Before deciding to finance a MFI, as well as conducting a financial analysis and governance report, we pay particular attention to its social performance. Due diligence is conducted based on the SPI4[1] methodology. The foundation also supports and strengthens businesses that have a social impact. The foundation helps them implement shareholder agreements as a measure to ensure that the value they create is distributed with equity. This ensures these businesses have a positive impact, first on producers and then on consumers, so that products become as accessible as possible. The Foundation’s priority intervention areas are sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

The foundation sets itself apart by including social performance indicators in its financing policy while operating alongside a global bank. It endeavours to encourage Crédit Agricole group’s entities to work with client bases that they would not normally work with.

What is the biggest challenge facing inclusive finance today?

Inclusive finance needs to query all the chains of value. We need to ensure that financial institutions are being used to serve the whole chain in a fair manner. To do so, it is important that inclusive finance is not seen as an isolated and separate segment of finance. Finance in itself needs to be inclusive.

What is your key interest in inclusive finance?

Finance should be seen as a tool that needs to question its environmental or social impact. As a leading global financial centre, Luxembourg also must ask itself these questions.

What are the projects you are currently working on?

First, I would like to insist on the fact that GCA foundation is partnerships oriented. I strongly believe that alone we are nothing compare to the huge challenge we have to fix which is to better share the world growth. Therefore, we work in developing cooperation and synergies with others actors with whom we share the same social values. Secondly, we are currently working on a mid-term 2018-2021 strategic plan. The aim is to find ways to have the finance sector evolve towards a more holistic vision in which there is no need to separate finance from inclusive finance but to merge both. We will also look into new technologies with the view to see how ‘low tech’ services can be used to provide financial services to as many people as possible.

If you would like to change / improve one thing in the sector of inclusive finance what will it be? How InFiNe.lu could contribute to it?

We need to break the sector-specific framing of inclusive finance. InFiNe.lu is based in Luxembourg, a financial place with a strong and recognised level of expertise. InFiNe.lu is also a network of actors from a range of sectors. It develops a multi partner approach. This is a twofold benefit. It means InFiNe.lu is able to position itself and speak up on key issues for an inclusive and responsible finance.

[1] SPI4 is a social performance assessment tool for financial services providers.