Karl Braun, Chair of Oikocredit Canada, reflects on the challenges faced in 2020 and outlines the opportunities and strategy for 2021.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many members, investors, and volunteers and others who have supported Oikocredit in our mission to improve the quality of life of low-income people or communities in a sustainable way. This includes my colleagues within our Canadian Board and Support Association, 11 dedicated and talented individuals who share a sincere desire to promote social development and impact investing. Your commitment of time, energy, and financial support are so greatly appreciated as we strive to move forward together to advance the reach and effectiveness of the Oikocredit Canada Support Association (OCSA) and Oikocredit International (OI).
Our Current Challenges
The past year has been a challenging one for so many – individuals, families, churches, businesses, organizations, and cooperatives like ours. The impacts of the pandemic have been profound. As a Support Association, like others we have had to quickly pivot to virtual options to solidify and build our OCSA community.
But while the pandemic has provided one level of challenge, we have also faced a couple more...
Early into the year, we learned that our partnership venture with Kindred Credit Union – the Oikocredit Global Impact Investment GIC – would come to a close as a result of a mutual decision between the Credit Union and OI. Later in the year it was confirmed that the offering of OSIF investments to accredited investors through Deetken would also be discontinued. Because of the restrictive investment regulatory environment in Canada, these creative pathways were the only ways to offer Oikocredit investments to Canadian impact investors. The result is that there is no way for Oikocredit investments to be sold to Canadian impact investors at a retail level.
So this now drives OCSA to contemplate new ways to engage Canadian impact investors – a challenge that our support association has taken very seriously.
2021 OCSA Strategy
As we move into 2021, the second year of the global pandemic, our strategic emphasis takes us on a bold path to investigate the potential for a retail impact investing product to create a new Canadian inflow source for OI. We cannot underestimate the environment we face - regulatory challenges, a stilted global economy, low interest rates, and the increasingly competitive Impact investing market. Yet we are encouraged by the significant progress and efforts underway within our US-based sister support association, Oikocredit US Support Association (OUS). Over the past year they have invested in a considerable research and analytical effort to identify the market potential for effective and meaningful impact investing options. Their progress together with a higher and more intentional level of cooperation between OUS and OCSA give us a tremendous boost as we embrace our challenge. While there are notable differences in our respective markets, regulatory structures, and cultures, there are clearly synergies to be gained and shared as both support associations move forward with the same goal.
With helpful financial and advisory support from OI, OCSA will be hiring a research consultant to corroborate their own discovery with applicable findings from the US research and our own Investor Engagement Survey, among other resources and other yet-to-be identified pathways.
How can you help us?
As we prepare to engage in new product research, we are also committed to keeping our support base – people like you – informed and engaged with ongoing communications, webinars, and virtual events. If you haven’t already, please take five minutes to complete the survey we’ve highlighted in the past few newsletters. Your input is critical and greatly appreciated.
Beyond the survey, we invite you to read our monthly newsletters, keep in touch with us, and let us know if you have any feedback, questions, or concerns.
As your national support association, we endeavour to do our very best to maintain and build our presence, relevance, and accessibility in the Canadian social development and impact investing space.
Chair, Oikocredit Canada