"AFIN will fill a gap that currently exists in Romania in the social economy financing sector"
Interview with Felicia Relenschi, CEO AFIN NBFI
Who is Felicia Relenschi? What was your motivation to choose AFIN for your career path?
I am a person who has always tried to improve, to grow both personally and professionally, to gain experience in the field I chose many years ago – financial-banking field, trying to balance as much as possible my private and professional life, sometimes succeeding better, sometimes less.
The events of recent years have led many of us to re-evaluate both ourselves and our priorities in life. For me, it has made me at least try to do more things that bring me pleasure, joy and satisfaction, including in my work. So, I gradually started to get involved in a few projects that responded to these needs, one of which was the AFIN project.
I was inspired by the passion of the people already involved in this project, by their vast experience in the field of social economy, from which I hope to learn as many new things as possible, by the possibility of being from the beginning in a project with a great potential, but most of all I was impressed by the fact that more than 170 investors, whether individuals or companies, directly involved in the social economy or just wanting to get involved in the future, have rallied to set up a financial company to support economic operators with social impact.
Why was it necessary for Romania to have a non-bank financial institution dedicated exclusively to economic operators with social impact?
The large number of investors in this project shows how necessary it was to have a financial institution dedicated to the social sector. The development of the social economy in Romania has mainly been achieved with the help of grants, sponsorships and donations, forms of financing which do not enable sustainable development. All the studies carried out recently show how great is both the demand for funding from operators with a social impact and their need for products adapted to the specific nature of their activity. AFIN IFN SA comes to fill a gap that currently exists in Romania in the sector of social economy financing.
What will be the focus of this institution? What are its main objectives?
I think I can answer this question simply by mentioning the mission that AFIN IFN SA has set itself.
Our desire is to support visionary social entrepreneurs with alternative financial instruments tailored to their needs and through consultancy, education and training activities. The main objective is to help social enterprises grow and become increasingly competitive, thereby multiplying the positive impact they have in their local communities and on the environment.
What will be the operational model of AFIN?
AFIN's operational model is built on two main pillars. On the one hand, the institution aims to provide loans to cover as much as possible of the financing needs of economic operators with a social impact, for working capital, for investment in their activity or for pre-financing until they obtain European grants/funds.
On the other hand, we have the Social Finance Association (SFA), an NGO that will complement the financial pillar of AFIN with specialised assistance and know-how in the field of social finance and by co-financing various projects.
Through this operational model, AFIN and SFA aim to support local entrepreneurs in overcoming financial barriers by offering not only finance but also advice, technical support to facilitate access to finance, management capacity building and financial education programmes and, in the future, loan guarantee schemes and even non-reimbursable grants.
How will AFIN and SFA contribute to increasing the financial inclusion of economic operators with social impact?
An inclusive financial system operates as an open system, which means that it allows everyone to use it (if and when they need to) on equal terms and conditions. This is what we aim to achieve through our two institutions, AFIN and SFA, both through the products and services we offer to economic operators with social impact tailored to their needs, and through our processes and policies that provide for transparency, integrity and fairness in everything we set out to achieve.
What would you like to convey to future AFIN customers? What about potential investors?
In order to realize their vision and fulfill the generous objectives they have set themselves, all economic operators with social impact need support, both financial and other, at a given moment. We will always try to be with them for the development of social and environmental projects, thus supporting their success and implicitly the social economy sector.
In order to be able to stand by our customers, we will also need support, additional capital. Each year, AFIN's capital growth will be correlated to the growth of the loan portfolio, in line with market performance. The increase in share capital will be achieved both by obtaining new resources from external financiers and by the contribution of domestic private investors. We therefore ask potential investors who have “social DNA” and who want to contribute to the development of the social economy to join us in order to be part of a key institution for the development of this sector in Romania and to increase the impact of their investments.
About Felicia Relenschi
Felicia is a business manager and consultant with over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry. She has held management positions in both non-banking and banking financial institutions (General Manager Motoractive IFN SA - GE MONEY Romania, Executive Director Patria Credit IFN SA and later Patria Bank SA). Throughout her career, Felicia has coordinated numerous projects in various fields of activity (microfinance, agri-finance, leasing), developing a strategic vision on the impact that finance can have on entrepreneurship, innovation and technological development, but especially from a social point of view. Using her previous experience, she hopes to contribute to the development of the first financial institution in Romania, built by social entrepreneurs for social entrepreneurs, and to become increasingly involved in other social economy projects.