Impact and sustainable investing
3 min read 21 Jun 23
Bank of Georgia is the second-largest bank in Georgia, providing retail banking, asset management and corporate financial services. The company offers banking services to retail and small business customers that were previously grossly underserved, with little banking infrastructure left after the end of communism.
The company also provides affordable mortgages in an economy which has among the highest number of people per household in Europe, where young people have tended to live at home far into adulthood given financial constraints.
“Bank of Georgia has played a key role in enabling greater financial inclusion by providing the Georgian public with much-needed access to financial products that were previously unavailable,” says Ben Constable-Maxwell, Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing at M&G Investments. “The company currently reaches 2.9 million retail banking customers, and encouragingly, we have seen this number grow steadily in recent years.”
Bank of Georgia has also played a key role in making the Georgian economy more investible through its active engagement with the government, helping to drive improvements in areas such as ease of doing business and corruption perception. Now seen as a relatively stable Eastern European economy, Georgia has benefited from increased international investment, which may have previously been deployed elsewhere, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A stronger Georgian economy is beneficial for both Bank of Georgia and the wider population.
“As impact investors, engagement also gives us the opportunity to provide additionality and encourage greater positive impacts from our investee companies,” says Constable-Maxwell.
“For example, engagement allows for positive reinforcement of the company’s long-term aims and impactful ventures. It also allows us to encourage more comprehensive disclosure of impact metrics, so that we might better measure the company’s impact.”
The past year has seen several engagements with Bank of Georgia on the subject of impact data disclosures. We have asked the company to provide additional detail around the underserved/unbanked people it has attended to, and how it specifically defines these communities.
The company believes that the majority of its retail banking customers earn less than 1,000 lari ($383) per month, but agreed that it needs to improve visibility on this. The company is willing to develop KPIs and communicate these going forward. The bank has been requested to include the data within its annual sustainability reporting, and this will be followed up in due course.
During the meetings, the company also explained that it has grown its digital offering, making financial products available to a much wider population, particularly those in rural areas who are now able to integrate into the wider financial system.
The bank is also aiding small businesses by providing a greater number of microloans, and offering mobile banking services, which allow companies to process transactions without buying more expensive point-of-sale systems. It has close to 1 million active digital users, demonstrating the pivotal role that Bank of Georgia has played in expanding the country’s digital footprint.
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