Here at EFA Group, we see ourselves as enablers of growth; a mindful agent to connect different universes through financing. Pension funds, insurance companies, asset managers from developed economies such as Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom have invested a total of US$1.2 billion into our funds. And at the heart of what we do is to deploy this capital responsibly, carefully and as simply as possible by lending to mid-market businesses globally.
We hold high regard for the responsibility given to us to manage and deploy the capital invested into our investment vehicles. Since the beginning, we have not strayed from our core expertise in trade finance.
By sticking to our DNA, with boots on the ground, and strong relationship-based approach, we continue to create meaningful impact to real economy companies worldwide by catering to their working capital and financing needs.
In 2017, our investors have helped us finance over 200 companies worldwide through over 4,700 transactions across the EFA portfolio of funds. In total, we deployed over US$4 billion of financing during the year, a 100% jump from 2016. That is also a new record for us and it’s all thanks to our investors.
With the pension fund of a 70-year old Japanese gentleman or a 65-year old lady in Nottingham, United Kingdom, we financed purchase of coffee beans from farmers in South America and the export of wheat from Australia to India. We participated in a loan syndication of pre-export financing of sugar and grains in Latin America. We helped finance the purchase of tin dredgers and built a road in Indonesia.
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In essence, this is what EFA does every day, every month, every year – we bridge the gap between investors and companies, between businesses that need capital and investors that seek stable returns. We connect the worlds of pensioners in developed countries and farmers in emerging economies, and between sellers and buyers of physical goods and services.
From our humble beginnings in 2006 starting with US$2 million of capital from family and friends, EFA has come to be one of the largest commodity trade finance managers in the world, managing US$1.2 billion as a Group. And by leveraging on our existing infrastructure and proprietary network, we began to build and operate variations of investment models that make sense to our core expertise in trade finance.
In 2017, we saw a number of those variations come to reality. The Group’s first close-ended fund focusing on mid-term financing of assets, EFA Real Economy Income Trust, held its final close in September, deploying over US$250 million of capital into 14 projects.
At the same time, we continued to develop our trade finance vehicles to ensure AUM growth is maintained at optimum levels and utilization continued at a healthy pace throughout the year.
As a major player in the alternative credit space, EFA is the gateway for investors to access this growing asset class. Underpinned by structural challenges faced by businesses, SMEs are seeing the need for alternative and diversified pools of working capital, which is the lifeline of their business.
In 2018, our focus is to continue filling the gap between the two spectrums of investors and businesses. The key success factor to this is ensuring a healthy, controlled growth that is in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Our focus is to bring the existing funds to each of their optimum capacities, and at the same time, broaden our offering of investment vehicles that complement our core expertise. Some of these plans include a country-specific trade finance vehicle, and a fund that lends to financial institutions based in frontier markets. More details will be unveiled later in the year.
Client experience remains at the forefront of our business strategy, and this year, we will continue to engage our investors and portfolio companies to ensure a regular feedback loop which is crucial for us to improve our services.
Investments in infrastructure and human capital are also essential tools for us to get through the objectives and challenges of 2018. More than ever, we recognize the need for information to be at our clients’ fingertips. Our IT systems will be undergoing an upgrade in order to meet this requirement. Technical risk management will also be beefed up as part of our regulatory obligations and to counter the threat of cyber-security which is increasingly more prevalent. Being in the relationship business, our people remain another pillar of our success. We continue to train, promote and reward key personnel in order to keep the ship moving and in tip-top condition.
When we first started out, most of our borrowers were unwilling to disclose that they were funded by an alternative financier. And investors considered trade finance as an exotic asset class. Against all odds and after weathering through several economic crises, we now have seven private debt investment vehicles that connect our investors to businesses worldwide. In total, EFA has deployed US$9.5 billion of financing to these companies. It just shows how far we’ve come, and the rising acceptance and awareness of the important role that EFA, as well as our peers, have in this space.
We look forward to continue our journey and in 2018, will endeavor to make even more meaningful differences into the lives of our stakeholders.
About EFA Group
EFA Group is a global independent asset manager specializing in private debt strategies. Established in 2003, the firm manages over US$1.2 billion of capital with a cumulative 25-year track record of positive performance across all of its funds. EFA is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Dubai Financial Services Authority and has over 60 personnel across offices in Singapore, Dubai, Geneva, London, and Istanbul. More information at www.efa-group.net