Few people initially imagined that an idea from five women with no experience in the financial world would grow into the largest bank for small entrepreneurs in Bolivia. But 15 years ago, Incofin cvso believed in their dream of giving vulnerable Bolivians access to the financial system and allowing small entrepreneurs to flourish.
In 1985, five courageous women decided to set up an NGO for the less fortunate in society who had no access to the financial sector. In 2007, the common story began with Incofin. FIE Bolivia, as the organization was then called, had a sister company in Argentina, FIE Gran Poder, with which Incofin had started a cooperation the year before. This is how Incofin cvso learned that FIE Bolivia was looking for additional share capital. Incofin was convinced of FIE’s growth potential as a lever for even more impact and became FIE Bolivia’s new shareholder. In 2010, FIE obtained its banking license and has since been known as Banco FIE.
Banco FIE has modernised and is taking advantage of the digital opportunities that new technologies offer today. Opening a digital account or initiating a credit application via mobile phone is all possible. Banco FIE’s means of operation and scale may have evolved dramatically, but the microfinance institution has remained true to the idea that inspired the five women who started it in 1985. The bank succeeds in bringing the vulnerable into the financial system, supporting the economic ventures of hundreds of thousands of Bolivians who would otherwise be left out in the cold. Banco FIE swears by inclusion, quality and transparency. No financial return without social return has remained the guiding principle. For example, it helps its clients to modernise their businesses: they offer a simple procedure whereby entrepreneurs can very easily set up a web page with a payment button to sell their products online.
Jesús from El Alto drove a minibus for years for a pittance, but today he runs a lettuce business with his wife. In 2012, they applied for a loan of just over 400 euros from Banco FIE to buy fertiliser. This was followed by a loan to buy more land. Today, they have ten greenhouses on 2,000 m² of agricultural land. The couple’s ambition is to grow into a national distribution company where their children can work and they can enjoy their old age.
Jesús Choque Aruquipa: “Banco FIE was like a big brother to us, giving advice and helping us to move forward.”