An expression I’ve heard many times in the markets in south east Asia is ‘same, same, but different.’ It always brings a smile to the face of the buyer and seller alike, and it’s an expression that comes to mind as I write this, my last blog as Chair of the Management Board of Triodos IM.

Earlier this year, I threw my hat in the ring as Chief Commercial Officer and member of the Executive Board of Triodos Bank NV. It was a move that may have surprised some, including myself, to a certain extent. Had you asked me at the start of the year if I would be leaving Triodos IM, I couldn’t have predicted it. It’s an incredible opportunity, and one that doesn’t come around often, but the decision was not an easy one to make. I have always had a passion for investing in emerging markets - it’s where my drive is, and it is where my heart lies. I also enjoy working at Triodos IM because it is a pure impact investor that builds on its success year-on-year. After giving it careful consideration, in the end I concluded that the bank’s mission to see money create positive change is the same, my purpose and intrinsic drive for sustainable development remains the same, it’s just that my role and responsibilities will be different. Same, same, but different.

I don’t believe in dwelling on the past, but I do feel it is important to look back in order to move forward; to celebrate the achievements and to evaluate the challenges so you can better navigate the path ahead. Reflecting on the 15 years since I joined Triodos IM in 2006, I am thankful that I have had the privilege to work for a pioneer and thought leader, where my purpose and my passion lie. I am honoured to have witnessed the remarkable growth of the organisation, from assets under management of EUR 250 million to EUR 6.1 billion.It has been an inspiring and incredibly rewarding journey, but most importantly it has created positive impact.

Triodos has a solid and robust platform to build on, but there are critical puzzles that need to be solved.

Celebrating some of the achievements, I can’t look past my first role as Fund Manager of Triodos Fair Share Fund and growing the portfolio from EUR 32 million to over EUR 300 million in seven years. It was a collaborative effort that contributed to opening up access to finance to millions of entrepreneurs in more than 45 developing and emerging economies. I am also very proud that Triodos IM has topped the Clean Energy Pipeline global league table for six years in a row since 2015. The title of ‘Most Active Lead Arranger’ acknowledges the enormous and dedicated effort required to execute between 50 and 100 deals annually, totalling between USD 500 to 800 million each year. Another key accomplishment for the organisation was when it brought the financial asset management on the listed side in-house – it created an excellent base for managing integrated impact, risk and return investment decisions.

In 2019, when I became Chair of the Management Board, I was keen to introduce a more  collaborative leadership style into the Triodos Management Council. As a forum that brings the Management Board and the Directors of Triodos IM together, it now openly discusses and debates strategic and operational issues beyond individual business lines and functional responsibilities. It not only shares the successes, but it also welcomes the questioning and challenging of ideas. It was a big cultural shift and a significant change that opened up organisational transparency.

In contrast to celebrating achievements, I also think about the challenges that lie ahead. In this same 15 years, the world of impact finance and investment has significantly evolved. Markets have changed, and impact finance is no longer a small, niche market. It’s massive, and global, and expanding by the day. There are also serious challenges and complexities around increasing regulation, having to operate in a low interest rate environment, and in a world that is trying to calculate its priorities as it recovers from COVID-19. Moving forward the impact investment market must continue to evolve, and better integrate real-world outcomes alongside risk and return calculations. It needs to not just pay lip service but play a critical role in solving global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and food security.

As part of my new role, I look forward to continuingmy involvement in Triodos IM through the lens of a strategic shareholder. I will be a strategic sounding board for the two remaining statutory directors, Dick van Ommeren and Kor Bosscher, until a third director joins them, most likely by the end of the year or in early 2022.I am positive about the potential that lies ahead for Triodos IM to successfully build on its mission and ethos to date, and I look forward to its continued growth and all the opportunities to come. I am extremely confident in its people and the inherent knowledge within the organisation, and that its customers and peers recognise and value its unique and extremely deep-rooted DNA.

As Triodos Bank NV’s Chief Commercial Officer, I am excited about my new responsibilities, and am looking forward to driving strategic direction. The group has a solid and robust platform to build on, but there are critical puzzles that need to be solved. It will be important for both Triodos and for me to be consistent and realistic when evaluating the challenges and to adapt as necessary. I intend to continue to lead with a can-do attitude, and a highly transparent and open style. I really look forward to maintaining the front runner position, and to building on the legacy of the people who have come before me.

As of 1 October 2021, Jacco Minnaar is Chief Commercial Officer of Triodos Bank NV.