Bernd Zattler: My resignation from the position of CEO
29 November 2021
Dear colleagues and friends,
In 1994, I founded LFS, which became an important consulting and management company in the field of development finance. Some years later, Dan Balke and Thomas Engelhardt joined the company and later became partners. Building on our successes, LFS created Access Microfinance Holding (AccessHolding) in 2006 with its international business partners. Patrick Schöneborn did an amazing job to get the company founded. Thanks to all of them!
In the following years, AccessHolding went from strength to strength to become one of the leading global players in the field of small business finance. As of now, the Group has 178 branches and outlets and employs over 5,900 staff. The Group resisted the heavy impact of the commodity price crisis in 2015/16, which hit some of our banks as their countries are strongly dependent on oil and other raw material prices. The pandemic (and related lockdowns) that started early 2020 was the next big external shock. It appears that we have well protected our staff and clients and managed the Group quite successfully through this emergency.
As to estimates for 2021, the AccessGroup with its seven subsidiaries will reach a profit after tax of above EUR 11 million and a Return on Equity of close to 11%. This year, the consolidated loan portfolio will grow by more than 45% to reach an asset size of close to EUR 750 million. An important reason for these achievements is the focus of the holding on making the banks more independent by helping them to build up their own capacities.
As of now, we manage more than 1.5 million customer deposits and have more than 700,000 loans outstanding, of which 86% are below EUR 1,000, 60% are business loans, and 30% are loans to small farmers. This shows that AccessHolding achieves its purpose to provide small business owners and their families simple and easy access to financial services.
I would like to thank all stakeholders of the AccessGroup for having helped to achieve this. A particular thank you goes to the staff and management of the network banks and the head office. You can be proud to be part of a project that contributes to a world in which people care about others independently of where they live, what their religion is, their sex, or the color of their skin. They all have the right to feed their families and develop their competencies, and they all should have the chance to create personal wealth.
These values have also been promoted by our learning and development efforts. Since 2014, 130 employees across the Group have graduated from AccessCampus after two years of action-based learning and coaching, with 68 staff subsequently being promoted, 12 to C-level positions. Almost all middle managers participate in training delivered by AccessFoundation, and almost all staff has access to a library of over 170 eLearning courses. Training and education helped them build their careers, but it also spreads our values of diversity, transparency, and performance orientation. In the AccessGroup, it does not matter where you come from, where your parents are from, or who you know. The only thing that matters is what you do for the company and the achievement of its purpose.
Our ability to be commercially successful and to deliver on our mission also depends on our technological capabilities. In the last six years, with the support of international partners, the AccessGroup has invested more than EUR 30 million to digitalize the customer experience and internal processes. The solutions developed represent a good experience to transform from the classical microfinance model into digital financial institutions while keeping our focus on the small business sector. We are living up to our aim to be “always ACCESSible” for our clients, 24/7 on many channels. This is also demonstrated by the fact that the share of out-of-branch transactions in the network has reached 72%.
I will step down from the CEO position at AccessHolding at the end of 2021. After many years in managerial positions, I will henceforth focus on my role as a shareholder. I will also continue as a supervisory board member of some entities of the Group. Thomas Engelhardt will take over the CEO position, and Rolf Reichardt will continue as the CFO of the Group. I am confident that, with your support, they will continue our successful journey.