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Episode #11: Jasmin Panjeta

Episode 11

Jasmin Panjeta started his career in cybersecurity but quickly learned it wasn’t for him. What he did know, however, was that he wanted to work for an organization that valued more than the bottom line. Enter Jasmin’s journey in values-based banking. Today Jasmin is a communications and public relations professional working for Oikocredit, a worldwide cooperative that focuses on microfinance and impact investing.

Jasmin talks with guest hosts Becca Hoeft and Bryan Toft about his move from Bosnia to the Netherlands, finding purpose in his work and the effect your banking habits can have on the greater good.

Jasmin Panjeta Headshot

Featured Guest: Jasmin Panjeta

Jasmin is a communications professional based in the Netherlands, with more than five years of experience in the impact finance sector and ten years working for international development organisations. In his current role as a Communications Business Partner, he supports the investment side of Oikocredit with a focus on financial inclusion, agriculture and renewable energy.

Before joining Oikocredit, Jasmin worked at the Global Alliance for Banking on Values as Communications and Brand Manager responsible for strengthening the brand and mission of GABV.

Jasmin has a Master in Marketing from Durham University.

Find Jasmin at LinkedIn.

Becca Hoeft

As a marketing, public relations and corporate communications leader, Becca (only her mom calls her Rebecca) started her career in consulting and have been involved with six startups ranging from film, fashion, technology and foot, with her first startup being a social enterprise importing leather fashion accessories made by single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking across the country, she is known for leading award-winning teams and has received recognition from the Cannes Film Festival for Best Media Campaign, , Hermes, MSPBJ Women in Business, and most recently, the Top Women in Communications awards. When the day is done, you’ll find Becca behind a good travel book planning her next adventure, plunking a tune on the piano or laughing with her blended family.

Bryan Toft

Bryan Toft is Sunrise Banks’ Chief Revenue Officer. In this position, Bryan oversees commercial banking/lending, treasury management, mortgage and fintech partnerships. He has been with Sunrise Banks for more than a decade. From 2014-2017, he served as president and CEO of Community Bank Owatonna.

Bryan has held a variety of roles at Sunrise Banks including credit analyst, commercial loan officer and EVP regional manager of commercial lending in Minneapolis.

Bryan received a B.S. in Computer Science from Buena Vista University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a board member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Twin Cities Metro CDC and Charter School Property, Inc.

Featured Music

Chris Taylor

“But if There’s Love”

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Episode Transcript

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:00:00] By choosing your bank, where you hold your money, where you have a mortgage or where you use other financial services, it also has an impact on your community, but also more, maybe even more importantly on the world itself.

Becca Hoeft: [00:00:20] Welcome to the NextGen Banker podcast, where we explore what’s next in banking and talk with the innovators responsible for creating positive change in the financial sector. I’m Becca Hoeft, chief brand officer at Sunrise Banks. And I am happy to be hosting with Bryan Toft today. Sunrise Banks chief revenue officer.

Bryan Toft: [00:00:41] Hey, Becca, happy to be here, David Reiling our usual host is out finding the next big thing in banking. But we have a special guest for you today.

Becca Hoeft: [00:00:48] Yeah. And I can’t tell you how I’m excited about this one, Bryan and I are excited to welcome Jasmin Panjeta and to be part of this podcast and to hear more from him and what he’s doing.

Jas, thanks for being here.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:01:01] Thank you for having me. I’m super excited.

Becca Hoeft: [00:01:04] Yeah, I know I am too. Man. I’ve known Jas for a few years now. Can you remind me how we met?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:01:11] I was actually trying to remember exactly. And I think I know. It’s when I started working for the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. And Sunrise Banks is a member of that Alliance.

Uh, I was running the marketing and comms community and practice. And as part of that community, uh, we created –. every three months we had meetings where we, and I remember that you were one of our most active members and I was like, oh, she’s such a great person to work with. So positive.

And then, yeah, I was right.

Sunrise Banks hosted, uh, an in-person meeting for the GABV for Global Alliance for Banking on Values. And we did a lot of work together.

Becca Hoeft: [00:01:52] We have, and it’s been just a great journey, getting to know Jas and understanding what he’s doing and the positive impact he’s making across the world.

Bryan Toft: [00:02:01] And before we jump into some questions, let’s give a little background on Jas.

Jasmin is a communications professional, experienced in values-based banking based in the Netherlands. And we just found out he’s soon to be certified in ESG and impact investing and currently works for Oikocredit, which hopefully we’ll dive into today. Jasmin welcome to the podcast and let’s get started.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:02:21] Yes, let’s do it.

Bryan Toft: [00:02:23] So, um, first let’s start with Oikocredit. Can you tell us about Oikocredit and the work that it does?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:02:28] Sure. It’s uh, Oikocredit is a quite old organization, has been there for 46 years already. A few, a week ago, I think we celebrated our 46th anniversary, our , 46th birthday. When people ask me, what is Oikocredit, Oikocredit it’s primarily a social impact investor. And it’s a worldwide co-operative that focuses on three, uh, sectors, basically we provide finances for financial inclusion, renewable energy and agriculture. Uh, Oikocredit currently focuses on 33 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

And the main goal of the organization is to improve lives of low income people and communities where we are actually present.

Becca Hoeft: [00:03:16] So you’re in the Netherlands Jas. I don’t know where Oikocredit is based out of.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:03:22] Oikocredit , is a Dutch, uh, organization and started, uh, I think ever since they started they’re based in Amersfoort, which is a very small town city close to , which is really in the middle of the Netherlands.

Becca Hoeft: [00:03:36] Got it. Okay. So Oikocredit works with lenders who participate in micro finance, which is a really important piece, as we all know, a financial wellness and inclusion. Um, Jas can you tell us what the difference is between micro finance and how it differs from traditional finance?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:03:54] It’s a, such an interesting, uh, type of financing, because microfinance, uh, was started as an answer for people who don’t have access to regular traditional banking, uh, and, uh, financial services and not just individuals, but also smaller companies and producers.

When I was doing a bit of research before this call, I actually found out that there’s almost a, there’s over a billion of individuals who lack access to financial services around the world. And micro finance is one of the ways how to actually bridge that gap. So what’s, uh, how microfinance works.

Usually individual comes with a very small request for a loan. And then through years they build up their credit rating and then they, within every single new loan, they can increase the amount, usually these, uh, these smaller loans are to be used for local manufacturing, they want to start up their own business.

Or, uh, sometimes it works, uh, where a smaller company or an entrepreneur wants to increase their production. So they need a bit of a bigger loan to buy a machine or something that will help them scale their business. Uh, but what’s, what’s interesting about this, you don’t usually, you don’t have to have any account, you don’t have to have a bank account. You don’t have to have a guarantee usually if it’s a smaller loan. So it’s much more, uh, accessible for people. Uh, low-income people especially who usually would not be able to go to, uh, to a bank or open up the bank, a bank account or something similar.

And microfinance is usually present in uh, developing countries where, uh, people have a very low, uh, income, uh, and they really need support like this. And Oikocredit works with a lot of partners. And one of our biggest portfolio is actually financial inclusion, which not only focuses on microfinance, but also focuses on financial institutions who support small and medium enterprises who would usually not get access to, uh, loans and support that they need.

But they also, uh, and we also work with non traditional financial institutions such as fintechs and uh, the new emerging companies that are related, that you cannot categorize them in any other sector basically.

Bryan Toft: [00:06:19] So Oiko actually gives lending and investment into other organizations, which in turn, will utilize microfinance for these consumers.

Is that right?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:06:29] Yes, that’s correct. So we have, uh, a bit less than 600 partners around the world and all these partners actually work with, uh, end clients. So we call them end clients, and those are the people that we actually aim through our social impact work. So they’re the ones who we actually want to reach and help them improve their life and their standard of living.

Becca Hoeft: [00:06:54] Jas, by chance. Do you have an example of that end client, um, or an example or two of, uh, the type of clients that you’re reaching and the impact that you’re making?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:07:05] We actually do. We recently published our, uh, impact reports for this year. Uh, and one of the partners that we actually, uh, featured is Cooprogreso from Ecuador and, uh, this, uh, client, uh, end client actually. has a stand where she sells, nuts, roasted peanuts and so on at the local market. So she usually needs a smaller loan where she needs to buy supplies so she can actually sell it and then repay the loan. So those are the small, very small micro entrepreneurs who have, uh, usually, uh, they work with food or sewing or something.

Uh, that’s very much, uh, that they can do themselves in a local community and a bit with their profit, they actually pay off their, their loans. So, uh, this, uh, organization called, uh, Cooprogreso . So, uh, is actually, uh, a microfinance institution who provides loans for, and clients like this lady that. I just mentioned.

And, uh, what I’m really happy about is that a lot of these end clients are actually women, which also goes hand-in-hand with the women empowerment and trying to provide more opportunities for women to actually be financially stable and, uh, support their growth as entrepreneurs as well.

Becca Hoeft: [00:08:27] Great story. Thanks for sharing. Um, Jas, I think we were in Berlin when I first learned about your life story. Um, you’ve been from Bosnia to the Netherlands. Can you tell Bryan and I a little bit about your life journey and how you learned about values-based banking?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:08:45] Sure. So as Becca said, uh, I’m originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina a really beautiful country. I would recommend everyone to go to visit. It’s such a great place. I basically my entire professional life there I used to work uh, I worked in, uh, developing agencies. I worked for the British Council. I worked for the United Nations.

And, uh, I think ever since I did my masters in marketing, I realized that, uh, Business side is not something that I’m really passionate about and I don’t, and I never cared about, and I never saw myself working for an organization that only cares about profit. So I think that was a really a good wake up call for me to actually understand that I don’t want to work for big organizations who are present, companies are present all around the world and whose target is only to maximize the profit. So that also helped me a lot to, uh, focused on what I want to do. So when I was back home, I was really fortunate to get a job at the United Nations Population Fund, where I actually worked quite closely on women empowerment, gender issues, sexual and reproductive health of youth, which was quite a big topic.

So I really experienced what it means to work with people in need, who really need the support. And when I say support, it does not need to be financial. It can also be educational support or, uh, even, uh, just, uh, to help them understand that that, uh, people care about them basically. Uh, so after when I was there, I actually met my husband, uh, who was Dutch.

And, uh, we lived together in Bosnia for three years, but then it was time to go somewhere else. And at that moment, the Netherlands was the best option for both of us. And I came to the Netherlands. I started working for a cybersecurity organization and I realized that coding and cyber security, not my cup of tea.

So, uh, I then decided to look for something that has a bit more meaning for me. So cybersecurity is very important, but it is really not something that I could see myself in. Uh, and then I slowly started looking for jobs and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values was looking for someone to help them with their communication and branding.

And I was really fortunate to see that. I had five interviews with them. It was the longest interview process of my life, even so far. But it was worth it. So, uh, I spent basically three years working with them and getting to know what banking on values is really about. And, uh, I have to say that I was one of those people who actually never understood what banking is.

I was never too interested in financial sector. I never, it’s not that I’d never cared, but I never. I have an account. My money is just there. Whenever I need it, I can take it out. In my head, I don’t know why maybe because of all the, uh, Hollywood movies where you see all the money, I was like, yes, my money is there just waiting for me.

Uh, to take it out or to use it. But then when I started talking to people and I have to say very passionate CEOs of all the GABV member banks, I actually understood that money can do so much more and is doing so much more and that we all have a responsibility of understanding exactly that and understanding that even if you have a hundred bucks at your account, it is also making a difference.

And by choosing your bank where you hold your money, where you have a mortgage or where you use other financial services, it also has an impact on your community, but also more, maybe even more importantly on the world itself. So that’s how I actually ended up understanding what banking on values is.

And why it is so important. And I have to say that I think at one point my friends were so sick and tired of me trying to nudge them to change their banks and to go to another more sustainable bank. I have to say luckily in the Netherlands, we have a, quite a number of quite sustainable banks, uh, who are, uh, very proud of –and very I’m guessing, I think now they’re becoming more and more popular, which is also a good sign for the Dutch society. But then after three years with the GABV was time for me to actually maybe experience a bit of a change and understand what it, what, uh, what is it to work for a proper business organization, uh, to certain extent.

And that’s how I actually ended up at, uh, Oikocredit, which is also a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. Now I’m plugging Global Alliance for Banking on Values a lot, but I think they deserve it because they do such a good job. So that’s how I ended up with Oikocredit.

Bryan Toft: [00:13:47] That’s awesome. Yeah. And a couple of things you said, really stick out to me, you know, um, values-based banking, you know, just where you hold your money or even where you have your loans, you can make a difference just by holding your money in a certain bank, in a certain place, uh, like, um, Sunrise or any of these other values-based banks.

Because they do good things with those deposits. Um, so I really liked what you said about that. And actually we have kind of a similar story. I was a computer science major and realized programming was not for me either and fell into kind of values based banking. And it really, really worked for me. And programming definitely has its place and what I never thought was that computer science background would come back around. Um, and what you’re talking about with cybersecurity and digital and programming, I mean, banking is all about that today between FinTech and cybersecurity and all of that tech side is at the forefront of banking. I never thought that would be the case, you know, several years back.

Uh, speaking of that, you know, when you think about, you know, Oiko and financial inclusion, what we hear a lot about in terms of other countries, um, is that digital and mobile based banking is very well adopted. You know, we experienced that through the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and talking to other countries and other banks and how people utilize their phone to do, you know, almost all, if not all of their banking.

Um, how does that, uh, you know, work with, um, you know, Oiko and how does digital play into, you know, some of the end clients and some of the programmer, uh, what’d you call it the, uh, the programs that you give your credit to. How does digital play into that? And where do you see that going? Is that going to be further adopted?

Is that going to make, you know, financial inclusion, easier? Talk a little bit about that.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:15:32] I think a digital has such a big, uh, potential to actually change the world of finances in general. For Oikocredit, I think we’re a, still a bit more traditional, uh, when it comes to our investments into the digital sphere.
But I think we’re also starting to slow, uh, slowly change. The challenge that we have is that we work with partners who actually work with end clients. So a lot of times, uh, we don’t, we invest money, uh, and provide loans and equity investments in companies, uh, who have a more traditional way of working with clients and supporting, uh, the clients locally.

However, recently, Uh, quite a number of, uh, uh, deals with companies who support, uh, SMEs, uh, in a digital way. So there are a few, especially Mexico and Latin America is quite, uh, active in the digital world. Uh, and I think I’ve also seen a lot of changes in more traditional partners, especially now because of COVID where everyone is trying to understand how they can move their, uh, work to a digital to the digital, uh, and make it more accessible to everyone without actually going somewhere.

Uh, that also means that, uh, uh, we’re, uh, Oikocredit, we’ll have to keep this train going and we’ll have to adapt to the new, uh, challenges and the new require– well, I think all the kinds, even investors will eventually require the easy to use either app or a system where it becomes a lot easier to actually invest your money and keep track of your money wherever you are.

Uh, and when it comes to digital in general, I had so many discussions about this topic with a lot of GABV , uh, uh, CEOs, uh, from the members of the GABV , uh, and, uh, banking on values banks are small banks, so they don’t necessarily have too much money to invest in a digital transformation and digital infrastructure.

Uh, and that brings a bit, I mean, uh, that type of work requires a lot of investments, initial investments, uh, but eventually it will actually help them. Uh, I think one of the biggest challenges that these banking values, uh, institutions, uh, sustainable banks, smaller banks, and, uh, impact investing funds are facing is that other big players are getting on board.

And not only are they getting more uh, into the digital world, but they’re also becoming more sustainable or at least they’re trying to say that they’re becoming more sustainable. And for some, it really works quite well. Uh, uh, and, uh, for others maybe a bit less, but this also becomes a very big, uh, threat to these smaller organizations who are actually, uh, Who’ve been there for years to actually work in communities and support them.

So what I’m, uh, what I’m seeing and what I’m really hoping is that, uh, all these smaller banks with a very pronounced mission to support local communities, will get on board and will find a way how to actually invest in, uh, uh, digital transformation or actually use technology to enhance their businesses, otherwise they will be really lacking behind, uh, and, uh, I’m very positive.

And I think now with the Corona, COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen such a big, uh, digital progress in a way in all aspects, not just banking, but in everywhere, uh, where people are understanding how powerful technology can be and how investments in the right infrastructure can actually help you remain, uh, valuable and also remain in business.

Becca Hoeft: [00:19:26] You know, I find that interesting Jas. Um, I think there’s been this misnomer that in developing countries that, you know, when we talk about the digital play and the use of mobile phones to do banking, that it is happening in developing countries. And that’s really been a primary way for these countries to access credit, to access their funds.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:19:51] Yeah. When you mentioned that. I actually, uh, I remember a really good example. It’s bKash that was created by BRAC Bank from Bangladesh. Basically, Bangladesh had a very big diaspora community around the world. And in 2010, actually they created a system of sending remittances back to Bangladesh, uh, via a text message.

And, uh, they, uh, at this moment have 30 million registered users, uh, all around the world who are actually using the system. So it basically started with a text message. Now, I think it’s, uh, it has, they have their own app. That’s much easier to use, but, uh, sometimes, uh, we forget how advanced. These developing countries can be when it comes to digital, uh, and technological advances when in financial sector, especially in, uh, I’ve been to Ghana in Africa, and I’ve also noticed that they use their mobile phones for payments and repaying loans.

And, uh, we have a few, a lot of other, uh, partners in developing countries is not in Asia as well in Latin America, I think as well that also use a similar system where you can, uh, top up your, uh, CA a phone account, and then you can actually use it to pay for services, to pay off your loans, to, uh, transfer money between users, send money to someone else.

What I’m really fascinated about is that you don’t have to have a flashy application in order to have the whole system work quite well, but you can also just use it in a very simple way as they did it, uh, with bKash at the start. And, uh, uh, yeah, so it’s, uh, it’s, uh, it really is fascinating how, uh, people can come up with these ideas and, uh, in the financial sector, but I’ve also noticed that, uh, uh, and I think in the U.S as well, uh, there’s a big rise of, uh, FinTech, uh, especially who provide such a great service, super simple way of opening up a bank accounts, very low fees and sending and receiving payments, or even, uh, sometimes it’s free.

They’re really taking over this financial market basically. Which is really interesting.

Bryan Toft: [00:22:10] Yeah. There’s no question that, that every day it seems like movement of money is speeding up and access to credit is easier. Access to financial system services is easier. And, uh, the pandemic seem to have accelerated that.

Um, going back to what you said about, you know, your falling into values based banking, not really even understanding banking itself and now working in a organization that does banking. What advice would you give to someone who either is a banker and is more interested in values-based banking or maybe isn’t a banker and is like, oh, this is kind of interesting.

You know, if I worked at a bank, I would, I would want to be at a values-based bank that, you know, is all about making a difference in people’s lives. What, you know, just from your own experience and, uh, what, you know, what, uh, what advice would you give to someone out there that either is doing banking or maybe wants to get into it?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:23:00] I think one, the first thing it would be to actually understand what is values-based banking and, uh, social impact investing and ESG investing. Because I think a lot of these questions or uncertainties come from not understanding what it is about. I think a lot of more traditional bankers see the uh, impact investing or values-based banking as something that might not bring profits.

Uh, but in reality, it is actually quite a stable market, uh, and, uh, if you do business correctly and, uh, that’s beneficial for the society and communities and the planet. It doesn’t mean that you will not get profit back. A profit will be there if you do a good job. Uh, but, uh just understanding it, And, uh, educating yourself about what is, uh, how you can make a difference as a banker is I think one of the most important things, and you cannot force someone to change it.

They really have to understand why they’re doing it. Uh, so I, what I’m trying to keep doing with everyone is to make them understand what I said before. It is important how they use their money and the money should be used for something good. Uh, and keep, uh, this on repeat we’ll hopefully make some people change their mind and, uh, help them, uh, navigate towards values-based banking as a professional, or even as, uh, just to open up a bank account and see how it goes.

Bryan Toft: [00:24:31] Yeah. I always think about, you know, is it, is this decision we’re making profitable to the bank is an important question, but it’s not the only question. And it’s definitely something that, you know, there are other, what I’ve found is he values based banks versus other banks is profit seems to be the main question at other banks.

And values-based banking, it’s a question, but it’s not the only one. And it’s, it’s part of a bigger, I think decision-making process where social impact and other things factor in as well.

Becca Hoeft: [00:25:00] Right. And when I think about David Reiling the host of NextGen Banker and Sunrise Banks CEO, David always talks about its mission times margin.

So the more you grow your mission, the more your margin grows, the more your margin grows, the more your mission grows. And that’s kind of, that is the mantra here at Sunrise and with so many other values-based banks in the global Alliance as well. But we are getting short on time, gentlemen. This has been just a great conversation.

I wanted to leave with one question and Jas, I know how passionate you are about, um, values-based banking. How do we think we can get the word out? Um, about values-based banking? How can people get involved? Um, what would you recommend?

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:25:50] Having worked for the GABV . I think one of the best ways to actually market values-based banking is just to provide, uh, examples, uh, positive examples of the work that has been done.

And luckily there’s so many good examples out there that we just need to, uh, sometimes find a good forum to like, Push it out. I’m sure this one of the forms in this podcast, actually, I’m hoping that it will inspire some people to first understand what money is about and how money can be used, and then to actually find a good balance between their values and what their money is doing. And that’s also something that a lot of people forget. They think that if they’re very, if they live a very sustainable life, if they recycle, if they buy organic, if, uh, they’re supporting their local communities. But then if they’re bank with a bank that really doesn’t care about anything like that, it doesn’t go hand in hand.

So you really should find a way how to balance these things out. And I always say like, if you don’t care about it, like, it’s your choice. So go with any other bank you want, this is really not for you, but if you care about the world and to the extent that you actually recycled, then you should also think about what your bank is doing around the world or where they have their investments.
Uh, when it comes to, uh, Values-based banking. I think it is gaining momentum a lot more, especially here in Europe. Uh, we’re experiencing a big, uh, wake up amongst millennials, I think, where they actually care a lot more about the world in general, which also, uh, reflects on how they bank. And, uh, I’ve noticed that for example, in the Netherlands a couple of the very sustainable banks are becoming more visible and more and more of people are actually opening up their accounts there, which is also a good and positive development.

So I’m really hopeful. I just think we should jump on the wagon and then, uh, see where it takes us. But we should, uh, start talking about what we’re doing. Be very proud of it and not to be shy, little, uh, banks, uh, in the shadow of other giants.

Becca Hoeft: [00:28:07] Jas, thank you so much for being on the NextGen Banker podcast. It’s a treat to be able to talk to you.

Um, and the next time I’m in the Netherlands, let’s connect. I’d love to have a cup of coffee.

Jasmin Panjeta: [00:28:18] It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed our conversation and I cannot wait to see you.

Bryan Toft: [00:28:24] Thanks so much, Jas. This was great.

David Reiling: For this episode’s musical feature, we’re showcasing Chris Taylor.

Chris hails from Upstate New York and currently resides in San Antonio, Texas. He has cowritten two songs with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and has many albums to his credit. Here is “But if There’s Love,” from his 2021 release, Transformed.

(song plays)

That was “But if There’s Love,” by Chris Taylor. Hear more of Chris’s music at https://christaylorworld.com/. If you would like your music featured on the NextGen Banker podcast, email Nextgenbankerpodcast@gmail.com with a link to your music and website.

Thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker podcast. We’ll see you soon.

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