By Brad Stave, VisionFund International, Marketing and Communications
With over 50 years experience in the financial industry, VisionFund Mongolia’s (VFC) CEO, Tim Hooper, brought his extensive history in Asian banking and financial development to the VisionFund affiliated microfinance institution in 2006.
With past work experience in the Philippines, China, and Australia, Mr. Hooper found himself in Mongolia in the early 90s. Following the collapse of communist rule, Mr. Hooper joined a delegation to provide financial insights and leadership to a country that was left with a large power vacuum and lack of financial expertise.
Although the initial findings showed that the financial state of Mongolia would require decades of consistent external financial support and access to low interest lending, this time in Mongolia set the stage for Mr. Hooper’s eventual return over 15 years later.
“At the time, I didn’t know that my initial experiences in Mongolia, right after the fall of communism, would be used to benefit a microfinance institution in the future. It’s encouraging to see how much Mongolia has improved over the past 15 years, but there is still a lot of development needed in the financial sector, which will impact everyday Mongolians,” shared Mr. Hooper.
Having been founded a year before Mr. Hooper’s arrival, VFM began operations in 2005 with four staff and a license to operate from the Mongolian Central Bank. Under Mr. Hooper’s leadership, over the next three years VFM expanded to serve additional borrowers through opening three branch offices. These branches were successful, so VFM opened three additional, albeit smaller, branches in other areas of the country. Throughout the entire expansion process, VFM committed to develop branches that would remain focused on serving clients in existing World Vision area development programmes.
In 2008, and in the wake of the global financial crisis, Mr. Hooper decided to slow the expansion of additional branches, and focus on the existing quality of programming, services, and portfolio. These exhaustive efforts resulted in portfolio at risk falling to 2.1% at the end of fiscal year 2010. In addition, Mr. Hooper led an effort to improve internal controls while utilising information technology, which led to a repayment rate increasing to nearly 100% by the end of the same fiscal year.
VFM is now transitioning ownership from World Vision Mongolia to VisionFund International (VFI), and is modifying its lending strategy to better meet the needs of ADP clients, while partnering with organisations such as Habitat for Humanity, to provide low cost housing options.
In 2010, VFM’s outstanding portfolio was in excess of $3 million, serving over 4,300 active borrowers with an average loan size of $931. Under Mr. Hooper’s leadership, VFM hopes to achieve commercial banking status in 2011, which will lead to expanded services in more ADP areas.
The leadership and determination of Mr. Hooper to provide best in class financial services to those living in poverty in Mongolia has made an immediate impact on thousands of families in Mongolia. With VFM, Mr. Hooper is ushering in a new era of economic possibilities for countless Mongolians.