Albert Hofsink: 20 years of combining a social and professional approach
In early 2015, Oikocredit’s risk, compliance & IT director, Albert Hofsink, announced he had decided to leave Oikocredit in pursuit of a healthy work-life balance. At the end of April 2015, he will say goodbye and start-up his own business. Albert has worked at Oikocredit for almost 20 years, originally joining as finance manager. During his long tenure with Oikocredit, Albert has contributed to Oikocredit’s financial stability, risk management as well as serving on several boards, including an Oikocredit microfinance partner, HKL in Cambodia and Oikocredit’s Indian subsidiary, Maanaveeya. We recently spoke with Albert about his time with Oikocredit and where he sees the organization heading.
You’ve worked across many regions. What have been some of the most rewarding moments for you at Oikocredit?
“One of the most rewarding moments was the 10 year celebration for Maanaveeya in August 2014. I was involved in setting up our Indian subsidiary, Maanaveeya, and was a board member for 10 years. During the celebration, I heard how much our clients and microfinance industry leaders valued Oikocredit’s support, particularly during the Andhra Pradesh crisis in 2011. I was really moved by these testimonies and felt extremely proud of the role our organization has played in India.
Another inspiring moment was during the 2005 year of microfinance celebrations in Manila, the Philippines, where we invited microfinance clients to the event. There were no experts with power point presentations at this event, rather the microfinance clients themselves presenting in the form of plays, poems and songs. It’s an event I will always remember fondly.”
After almost 20 years with Oikocredit, what were the biggest changes you experienced?
“We started to implement many changes in Oikocredit when a new management team and clear strategy was put in place in 2002. From that point, much more was decentralized, in addition to introducing the new interest rate model and large scale local currency lending. In 2005, Professor Muhammad Yunus, the man known as the father of microfinance, received the Nobel Peace Prize and a few years later Princess Máxima of the Netherlands became involved in microfinance. This put the industry on the map, changing the whole landscape for Oikocredit. From then on we went from a pioneer that was founded by the World Council of Churches to a larger organization with a social approach.”
In your opinion, what makes Oikocredit a unique organization?
“For me, it’s combining a social and professional approach whilst being innovative and continuously trying to improve everything we’ve developed. I am also impressed with the commitment from our staff and support associations. Apart from bringing in the funds, many of the new ideas come from Oikocredit’s support associations, for example, improving the ethical content of our term investment portfolio. Our global network is also unique, providing us with many opportunities.”
Where do you see Oikocredit in five years?
“I think we are well prepared to continue to play an important role in enhancing social performance in development finance. I also expect further growth of our investments and that we will become more well-known around the globe.”
What advice would you give to anyone joining Oikocredit today in a management position?
“It is not always that easy to combine growth and sustainability with our social mission. I would say the ability to listen, try to understand our different stakeholders and have good cultural awareness while having patience and an understanding of the landscape in which we work.”