Ethical finance to combat unemployment

In 2011, Marc Verhaeren (Ingest 1996) and Patrick Somerhausen (Ingest 1999) launched Funds for Good. This investment company provides financial help to individuals who are financially insecure to start their own business.

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Why did you create Funds For Good?

For a long time we had wanted to find a professional activity that would allow us to have a positive impact on society. The idea came from our meeting with the third founder – Nicolas Crochet – who was working in the finance and banking sector. He identified a lack of ethical financial products that allowed people to have a tangible impact on society. And on our side, Marc and I had experience of entrepreneurship, having created our first company together in 2005. Our aim was to enable people who wanted to consume responsibly to be responsible consumers too in their choice of savings and investment products.

How does it work?

We offer investment products, in the same way as banks and asset managers do. In fact we’re right up there with them as we offer a very good return. But we plough back half our profit, as well as a minimum of 10% of our turnover, into our Funds for Good Philanthropy foundation, which helps people who are unemployed or reliant on welfare to create their own job by launching their own business. We provide them with an ‘honour loan’, ie interest free and unsecured, which is combined with a micro-credit. To do this, we collaborate with partners like Microstart, Brusoc and the ADIE. We choose people who have no funds of their own but do have a good business idea!

You also offer coaching…

Getting funding is an uphill struggle but it’s nothing compared with the challenge of growing your business. To help entrepreneurs succeed, we make coaches available to them and also experts who help us free of charge, such as lawyers to help negotiate their lease and advertising agencies to create a logo for them. For instance, we work with Evelyn Cartenstadt’s (Ingest 1996) agency The Manifest. This support is invaluable. The entrepreneurs often tell us what a boost our support gives them.

Does offering a more ethical finance alternative have growing appeal in this area?

We believe there’s a groundswell here. We did a survey which showed that if these products were made available, they would not only be purchased but also in preference to SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) products, where you’re simply limited to not investing in certain non-ethical sectors such as armaments and tobacco. Of course we adhere to these principles but we go further by offering tangible impact, which is much valued by investors. The study also shows that making this type of product available has a positive impact on the image of financial intermediaries such as bankers and brokers.

What are your challenges for the future?

We have to continue to convince as many distribution channels as possible to offer our products because they’re still not available everywhere. The more people are able to invest in our funds, the more we’ll be able to help entrepreneurs and the greater the impact will be on society.

 

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