Portfolio Spotlight: ACME S.A. in Haiti

On July 17, 2017, MCE Social Capital disbursed a US$1.5M loan to ACME S.A., a Haitian non-banking financial institution founded in 1997 with the clear mission to provide fast, reliable, and affordable financing solutions to the large number of Haitian micro-, small- and medium- entrepreneurs suffering from unmet credit needs. ACME, in French, stands for Association pour la Coopération avec la Micro-Entreprise.

Since its founding as a non-profit institution in 1997 by Belgian business expatriate Bernard de Brouwer, ACME has grown significantly. In 2001, current CEO Mr. Sinior Raymond, a Haitian national who had started the microfinance operations of BUH (Banque de l’Union Haitienne), a local commercial bank, joined the organization to lead its institutional development. At that time, ACME had only two branches in Port-au-Prince, about 3,000 clients, and less than US$400K in outstanding loans. In 2002, after performing its first rating exercise with Micro Finanza Rating, ACME managed to secure its first commercial loan with Deutsche Bank backed by a guarantee from the Soros Foundation. From the start, ACME planned on being a financially self-sustainable institution and avoided relying on donations, preferring to develop a sound business to run operations. By 2009, ACME had 20 branches, about 26,000 clients and a US$12M loan portfolio, at which point the institution decided that it was time to transform into a fully-fledged for-profit commercial venture and incorporated as a private limited company, ACME S.A.

The earthquake that severely hit the southern part of Haiti in 2010 sharply affected ACME’s operations, losing about 4,000 clients, stagnating its portfolio, and experiencing its only financial loss to date. However, in 2011, ACME was “back in the black,” demonstrating strong resilience to the economic shock. By 2014, the institution reached a record 36,000 borrowers across 32 branches. Today, ACME S.A. is one of the most prominent microfinance players in Haiti with a gross loan portfolio of about US$16.5M and more than 30,000 borrowers. After years of refining its portfolio and preparing for the next steps in its institutional development, ACME is now ready to become a regulated, deposit-taking institution, as soon as a new Haitian microfinance law currently in the works is approved by the local parliament. MCE’s loan will support ACME during this new phase of institutional development.

“We had 20 branches, today we have 32,” says Felix Tertulien, ACME Director of Finance and Operations (pictured above). “All of the 32 branches are interconnected. They are operating in real-time, meaning they can share information among one another or with our headquarters. I can now get on the system, and approve a transaction that was made in Maissade today. A person that is in Saint-Marc can go make a transaction in Gonaives, Montrouis, Marchand, Estere, or anywhere.”

Despite Haiti’s severe macro-economic, political, and environmental crises in recent years, ACME has demonstrated strong resilience through its ability to adequately and successfully balance financial sustainability with social impact. Supported by well-known international shareholders, ACME operates according to commercially driven best practices while retaining focus on the most underserved segments of the market, especially as it continues to expand its product offerings into agricultural value chains and reach more rural areas throughout the country.

In addition to the ever-growing strength of its guarantee pool, MCE’s loan to ACME was also made possible thanks to a guarantee provided by the Development Credit Authority of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/DCA). USAID/DCA is a U.S. government agency that provides partial credit guarantees to financial institutions in the developing world, substantially reducing transaction risks for international lenders. DCA guarantees are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury and are typically 50% guarantees on loan principal (fees and interests excluded). Following extensive due diligence on both ACME and MCE, USAID/DCA decided to support the transaction with a 50% guarantee that effectively reduces MCE’s exposure to US$750K.

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