The Nanovic Institute's Student Spotlight has focused on research a lot lately, but we fund more than just research projects. Vincent Vangaever ('17), a double-major in Finance and Political Science, knows this well. He received The R. Stephen and Ruth Barrett Family Grant in order to complete a summer internship at the FMO, the Dutch development bank. His time in The Hague was extremely well spent. Here is his own account of his experience:
This summer, thanks to the Nanovic Institute and the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, I was privileged to have the opportunity to spend eight weeks in The Hague, The Netherlands. During my time in the country I completed an internship at the FMO, the Dutch Development Bank. I learned a tremendous amount over the course of these two months, exposed to a new culture and new working environment. I am very thankful to both of these organizations for providing me with the funding and support for my project.
The Dutch Government created the FMO (which stands for Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden) in 1970 in order to invest in private sector businesses and development projects in emerging markets. Today it is still majority owned by the Dutch government but functions as a commercial bank. The bank has over $8 billion in assets invested across four continents and a wide range of sectors. The FMO works to empower entrepreneurs and businesspeople to build a better world. As someone who has long been interested in creating good through business, the bank was an ideal place to spend my summer.
My interest in positively impacting society through business stemmed partly from my work last summer interning at TechnoServe, an NGO with a mission to provide business solutions to poverty. I worked in their business incubator department assisting small business owners in South Africa’s urban areas to develop their businesses, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. This experience showed me that aid does not just come in the form of grants and donations but also through practical training as well as financing. Building on my time at TechnoServe, I spent my fall break of sophomore year researching The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, further examining the use of financing and loan instruments to create impact and assist those in need.
Development banking and impact investing to me sounded like the next logical step. Because of this I reached out to various institutions across the world, but with a particular focus on Europe. I lived in England in high school, and very much wanted to use my summer to explore the rest of the continent. I was lucky enough to be selected as an intern by the FMO, an opportunity I eagerly seized.
Within the FMO I worked in the NL Business department. The mission of this division is twofold: to provide joint financing and development support for Dutch businesses in emerging markets, and to manage close to $1 billion in government funds that are invested in economies and projects too risky for FMO-A (the FMO’s own capital). My work was split between these two mandates. I spent part of my time analyzing the returns of the NL Business’ MASSIF Fund, a US $500 million fund that invests in financial institutions and private equity funds in these risky environments. MASSIF is in the process of undergoing its 10-year evaluation so I studied the catalyzing effects that MASSIF money has had on the clients it has invested in. This allowed the team to evaluate our progress, highlight successes and also better identify concerning clients that maybe have not met the strategic goals of our investment.
My main work at the FMO was centered on our business development team. I along with a more senior colleague were tasked with pursuing an opportunity to develop a West African port. This development process would form the port into a major regional hub using Dutch shipping and port development companies as well as Dutch agriculture companies and traders to develop the “hinterlands” or region behind the port itself. I was responsible as a member of the team for researching investment opportunities present in the hinterlands, specifically expanding the trade of cacao from the region. To properly show the investment potential to our clients, I was tasked with building several financial models. These began at the very start of the cocoa production process with the small hold farmers. The models then continued throughout the supply chain, focusing on the cooperative, commodity trader, and finally a shipping and port management company. The purpose of this project was that once the models were integrated, we could identify common inputs, that when changed influenced each piece of the supply chain. For example, factors like the minimum wage, the price of oil or electricity, supply shocks to production and global price fluctuations dramatically impacted the income statements of each component of the supply chain. This allowed the team to see the viability of certain investments as well as where our capital could create the most good.
Outside of work, during the weekends I was able to throw myself into immersing in Dutch culture. I travelled around the small but diverse country visiting towns in the north and south noting the regional differences and learning from the friendly locals. I also had the opportunity to work on my Dutch language skills. While I am originally from the states, my father is from Flanders, Belgium, where they speak a dialect of Dutch, so I have grown up speaking the language poorly; my trip to the Netherlands gave me the chance to technically improve. The Netherlands is also one of the great art capitals of the world. The Hague itself, where I spent the majority of my time is home to the Maurtishuis, home of famous works like Girl with a Pearl Earring, View of Delft, and The Goldfinch. I was able to explore pieces of art that I had been reading about in books and studying in school for years.
Overall my trip was an enormous success. My work centered on finding the greatest potential impact, in terms of jobs, economic growth, and improved standards of living that our financing could provide throughout the cocoa supply chain in West Africa. This was highly satisfying for me. The highlight was that through these projects, which a team of only a few people working together could prepare the financing for, thousands of lives could be affected. Development banking is a field I really enjoyed, and the Netherlands itself was the perfect host country.