9 January 2019
Meet WOA member Simon Thompson!
Please describe your function: where do you work and what do you do?
I am an Independent Consultant specializing in SME and Agri Finance. My work is principally for development agencies such as the World Bank/IFC and Asian Development Bank who recognise that access to finance is still a major problem in most emerging markets. I also do some direct contract work with overseas banks and government agencies. My prior background was as a CEO of a Factoring and Trade Finance company in New Zealand and I was initially recruited by the World Bank after they visited our operation. They considered it a “best practice” model and asked me to share knowledge with bankers in China and then beyond.
In recent years the roles have become more diversified, including factoring, inventory finance, risk management, supply chain finance, factoring platforms and a wide spread of trade related agri finance products.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I consider myself very fortunate to have found this work as I get to travel all around the world and get involved in a wide range of finance projects. This includes from advisory workshops on risk management, held recently in Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Fiji and Uzbekistan, through to factoring and movables finance trainings in Kosovo and Rwanda. I have been involved in many “hands-on” projects for agri-related value chain finance projects for products such as cocoa, ginger, coffee, black pepper and vanilla in the Pacific region. Last year I also got the chance to do a Factoring country assessment for Jamaica. So I really enjoy the diverse range of projects and countries, and with that meeting great people as well.
What do you appreciate most in your colleagues?
The World Bank and ADB people I work with are very dedicated and hard working individuals, without exception. They are all focused on the ultimate goal of poverty reduction and using their Access to Finance programs as one of many tools in this ongoing battle. I have great admiration for their work, especially the field staff who often have multiple challenges and a wide number of stakeholders to keep happy.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you at work?
Within the first 2 years of my contract work, while I was still part-time managing the New Zealand finance business as well, I found myself running a 3 day workshop for Chinese bankers and representatives of the China Banking Regulatory Commission in a large lecture hall in Nanjing China. It was humbling that the full house audience were so engaged in the material and that several more followed after that.
In terms of finance projects my team and I were were lucky to have the Wall St Journal follow us around on a Tonga project to assist vanilla farmers and the news stories from that, including a powerful video story, helped our expansion of this work across multiple Pacific Island countries.
What do you enjoy outside work?
I love to travel , which is a good thing given my line of work! I try to spend extra time in new countries to absorb a little of their culture and sights. My wife usually joins me a couple of times a year. My adult children have also been living overseas at different times so we travel with them also. In New Zealand we have a favourite beach, Mt Maunganui, and travel there frequently. I am a classic car enthusiast so enjoy the drive.
What’s one thing that people are surprised to learn about you?
At my 50th birthday I had Neil Finn play a few songs for the guests. Neil is the founder of Crowded House and is currently a guest lead singer for Fleetwood Mac. He is my brother in law and kindly stepped up to play for a smaller audience than usual.