Credit Suisse has been a longstanding partner of Accion, notably in helping to launch both the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) in 2008 and Accion Venture Lab in 2012. Its support has gone well beyond financial contributions and has developed into a valuable relationship of mutual advice, referrals, and opportunities to engage public audiences.
A leading global financial institution, Credit Suisse is committed to, as it states in its corporate responsibility report, “fostering inclusive growth by addressing socio-economic challenges.” Through its involvement in the founding of impact investment asset manager responsibility in 2002 and its own Financial Inclusion Initiative (formerly the Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative), Credit Suisse was one of the first Swiss banks to recognize the power of microfinance as both a transformative tool for the financially excluded, and an investment opportunity for its clients.
From microfinance to fintech
Given Credit Suisse’s pioneering support for microfinance development, its involvement in the launch of Accion’s “action tank,” the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), ten years ago was a perfect fit. CFI engages and challenges the industry to better serve, protect, and empower clients. With Credit Suisse’s support, CFI:
- conducts research and shares insights to help the industry meet the financial needs of underserved people around the world
- supports, convenes, and engages a variety of industry stakeholders — such as policymakers, investors, fintechs, banks, and microfinance institutions — to help make financial inclusion a lasting reality
- advocates for client protection and empowerment, working globally to create an environment in which financial services are delivered safely and responsibly to financially capable low-income clients
While maintaining their deep commitment to promoting responsible, sustainable microfinance programs, Accion and Credit Suisse have broadened the scope of their involvement in financial inclusion over the last decade. This is illustrated well by Credit Suisse’s recent renaming of their Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative to the Financial Inclusion Initiative.
More recently, Credit Suisse helped support Accion’s groundbreaking work with inclusive fintech startups by becoming an Innovation Partner in Accion Venture Lab. Providing unrestricted funding support means that Venture Lab can be both strategic and opportunistic when researching and identifying potential seed-stage fintech for inclusion investments. Furthermore, it allows Venture Lab team members to provide investee companies with critical post-investment support, helping to ensure their ability to scale and succeed.
A recent Venture Lab portfolio addition is NOW Money, which operates in the United Arab Emirates — a region that has not traditionally attracted institutional funder interest to enhance financial inclusion. Thanks to the unrestricted nature of Credit Suisse’s funding, Venture Lab was able to research and ultimately invest in NOW Money, the first fintech in the Gulf region to use mobile banking technology to provide accounts, financial inclusion, and a range of low-cost remittance options to low-income migrant workers. Credit Suisse’s support has also allowed Venture Lab to share its learning with the broader community in an effort to help build the financial inclusion ecosystem, and it has often partnered with the Venture Lab team by inviting them to speak at bank-led conferences and on panels.
Accion and Credit Suisse staff members stay in frequent touch to discuss ongoing projects and new opportunities to advance our shared vision of a financially inclusive world.
Manuel Hörl, Head of the Credit Suisse Financial Inclusion Initiative
For Credit Suisse, the longstanding relationship with Accion has allowed us to gain a deeper, research-based understanding of the challenges of financial inclusion and to be at the forefront of new developments, like fintech for financial inclusion. We highly value the cutting-edge work by Accion and its leadership, and our executives and clients appreciate Accion’s professional expertise and commitment.
What this partnership has enabled
Credit Suisse’s unrestricted funding support has helped enable Accion Venture Lab’s support of more than 30 startups using fintech to reach the underserved.