Perspectives from the Field: Mexico
May 29, 2019
Calvert Impact Capital invests to help financial intermediaries better serve small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the engines of local economic growth and job creation across the globe. About 16% of our current portfolio – approximately $65 million – supports US and international small business financing. From financing job-creating SMEs in the Middle East and North Africa through SANAD, to making credit available for SMEs in post-Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico through Lift Fund, to supporting entrepreneurs of color in the southeastern US through UP Community Fund, we invest in intermediaries that provide the critical flexible financing to SMEs that they do not receive from traditional lenders. These SMEs are in the “missing middle,” meaning that traditional banks and financial institutions often pass them over in favor of larger loans to larger companies.
I took a trip to Mexico recently to visit some of our borrowers that plug these financing gaps. While there, I had the opportunity to hear firsthand from the SMEs themselves how important this financing is to their business.
Mexico’s Missing Middle
In Mexico City, I visited our borrower Vehiculos Liquidos Financieros (Velifin), an institution that provides financing to non-bank financial intermediaries (NBFIs) serving SMEs and microentrepreneurs in Mexico. Velifin was founded in 2008 to solve the precise financing challenges I heard about all over Mexico – that SMEs do not have sufficient access to capital from traditional financial institutions.
Our loan to Velifin supports more than the loans to the SMEs on the ground in Mexico; it also addresses the market dynamics that make it hard for SMEs to access financing in the first place – the supply of capital from institutions to SMEs. Velifin solves for this problem in part by attracting institutional capital, like the financing from Calvert Impact Capital, at a larger scale than what an individual NBFI could do on its own. Raising larger amounts of capital helps Velifin lower the cost of capital for their borrowers, allowing them to grow their portfolios and serve more SMEs.
Since their founding, Velifin has lent over $130 million to NBFIs, providing support to more than 2,400 SMEs and 123,000 microenterprises and individual borrowers in Mexico. Velfiin focuses on building long-term relationships with their clients and seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities for each business they serve. I met one of Velifin’s client, Credicam, an NBFI that has worked with Velifin since 2012, as well as one of Credicam’s long-term clients, Secic.
Credicam supports established Mexican SMEs, especially smaller growing companies that need flexible financing options or have business models that traditional banks are not used to. Credicam takes the time to build a relationship, understand the business, and offer financing tailored to the SME’s needs and opportunities. As they describe it, Credicam’s clients “are not just a number” to them, like they would be considered if they sought financing from a bank.
For example, Credicam has been working with Secic, a vending machine logistics company based in Mexico City, for over 20 years. Secic was founded with just five vending machines and a borrowed truck and, since then, has grown into a full logistics company with more than 2,000 vending machines serving 300 clients across Mexico City and into surrounding states in Mexico. Secic has experienced steady growth since they began their relationship with Credicam, especially over the past 6 years, and have become a brand name in vending logistics across the region.
Secic’s founder told me that they greatly value the relationship. Credicam is always willing and able to respond to the opportunities that arise, whether it’s helping them to fulfill a large unexpected order from a client or capitalize on an opportunity to purchase a new truck. He noted that other banks will not provide the kind of flexible financing Secic needs to respond to these opportunities.
Because of Credicam’s continued support, Secic has been able to grow and offer reliable opportunities for their staff and community. They have 120 employees across their sales, transportation, warehouse, and administrative teams, and many of their admin employees start as assistants and move up to other opportunities across the company. Secic also offers opportunities that their employees wouldn’t be able to otherwise access, like banking services, professional development, and mentoring. As the founder of Secic told me, “We are like a family.”
The high impact of supporting financing for SMEs like Secic is clear, in Mexico and beyond. We see this around the world, whether it’s supporting NBFIs in Mexico through intermediaries like Velifin, healthcare and technology companies in the “missing middle” in Asia through ASLF, alternative lenders in Sub-Saharan Africa through Lendable, or family-owned businesses in California through Opportunity Fund.
Calvert Impact Capital is committed to supporting these small, growing, and medium-sized enterprises, as well as innovative financial institutions that finance them. It was eye opening to meet several of these SMEs in Mexico recently, and I look forward to continuing to share their stories.
Hungry for more? Check out our entire portfolio list and the borrowers we finance.