Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Keisuke Arimoto, a member of ESADE’s MBA Class of 2015, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Colombia’s Refinancia.
Before meeting Refinancia, I have always been interested in cultures of Latin America as I have been travelling frequently there and learning Spanish almost every time I had vacation. One day, I have come to think “what if I could connect my hobby with professional experience?” with hopes that being a Japanese speaking English, Spanish, and Japanese with international business experiences would be provide a niche! This question as well as a motivation to become an entrepreneur in the future took me to an MBA in Barcelona after 7 years in the financial industry, and found an answer at Refinancia realizing my sueño (dream.)
When I had my “garden leave,” after resigning from my previous work, before the MBA, I went to Colombia to spend 40 days, travelling around the country after following recommendations of backpackers I had met in previous years. It was easy for me to make a decision to come back for a different reason, a work experience, given the warmness and sincerity of people as well as amazing touristic attractions including a beautiful city of Cartagena in the Caribbean coast.
Keisuke with the team at Refinancia
What kind company is Refinancia?
It is a solution provider in the area of consumer finance with two main businesses, NPL and merchant payment guarantee services. The company was establish in 2005 by an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, Kenneth Mendiwelson, and has been enjoying a tremendous growth to have over 900 employees in Colombia and Peru. Given its success to capture the growing niche market, Refinancia has been recently acquired by NASDAQ listed US based specialty financing company, Encore Capital Group, mirroring an entrepreneurial success story we would learn in our MBA classroom. Hence, Refinancia is in an extremely interesting stage where it is transitioning from an entrepreneurial company to a corporate entity to incorporate established know-hows and structure from the parent company.
The traditional and original business is an NPL (non-performing loan) business in which Refinancia becomes an investor of a consumer NPL portfolio by purchasing it from banks. In this transaction, banks benefit from removing bad assets from its balance sheet for an income from the sales while the borrowers benefit from gaining opportunity to improve their credit score by having the second chance of repayment, instead of being recorded as an insolvent borrower. As the consumption and loan growth have been growing rapidly along with the economic growth, Refinancia has been the leader in providing such financial solutions in Colombia and Peru.
The merchant guarantee business is a relatively new business yet fully leveraging Refinancia´s core capabilities nurtured in its NPL operation, providing point-of-sales solutions to consumers while Refinancia guaranteeing payment by the consumers.
As Refinancia has been rapidly establishing its foot print in financial industry, it has been attracting many talents from other large banks and financial service companies. Hearing the opinions of those who recently joined Refinancia from other banks, it is quite interesting that Refinancia has size meaningful enough to attract large businesses and talents yet maintains an innovative and entrepreneurial environment where countless new projects have been in discussion and being launched to fuel further growth.
In terms of people, they are very friendly and approachable from young people to senior management including the founder as I had expected from my previous travel experiences. I also go out to share personal time with colleagues of Refinancia outside of work including playing football. The quality of people working here are very high with high disciplines and inspirations to work in an entrepreneurial and challenging environment.
What is my project?
The company has many projects in discussion before hitting the market. My project is to create a model by which the company prioritizes initiatives, and prioritize the current initiatives. Having a means to prioritize initiatives has been becoming ever more critical as there have been needs to select initiatives with large market potential with sustainable profitable growth out of many initiatives on the table. This is especially a case as Refinancia, after the acquisition by Encore, has been in a turning point from an entrepreneurial stage to a corporate stage so that the use of its capital needs to be logically explained to the parent company.
The project has been requiring many skills learned in the MBA and the previous work experiences. First, financial analysis including accounting and valuation analysis are a must as all the projects need to be put in economic figures for comparisons. Second, communication skills and sales (which include Spanish!) are essential as my job cannot be done without any help of commercial team and financial team of Refinancia. Also, it is important to logically explain the top managements about the model so I would say a presentation skill is also a key to apply.
In many aspects including the entrepreneurial environment (despite of the recent acquisition), the stage where the company is in, the business, the people, the project, and the Latin American business experience, I have been very satisfied with the internship. Supported by the many, I am committed to complete and deliver the presentation in a few weeks and keep on enjoying the charm Colombia!