British International Investment

Opening doors and creating opportunities

Maria Smith
Managing Director, Chief Impact Officer

My name is Maria Smith, and I head the development impact team at BII. I joined BII and I was responsible for all things in microfinance. And then after a couple of years I was given the role of financial services equity. So I looked after the entire private equity portfolio within the financial services sector.

Then I came over to run the impact team, I made the switch because I think in order to continue to be a good impact investor, you need to have expertise in different areas.

How does BII differ from other organisations?

Before I joined BII, I went to go work for a development finance type company in microfinance. But our scale and our growth was limited by the capital that we could raise, which at the time was mostly concessional financing, and it was quite limited. So I was frustrated because in order to achieve what we wanted to achieve, we just couldn’t raise the capital that we wanted to.

And so coming to BII, where we had the privilege of a balance sheet where we could actually, you know, make more sizable investments and play a role in mobilising private capital is what brought me here.

How does BII create opportunities for you?

BII’s name will open up doors for you. It will present opportunities. It means you can be at the table with the right stakeholders in the ecosystem.

I think what we do is incredibly cool, right? I mean, we have a full-time job to try to invest in developing markets, which I’m passionate about, and try to grow and scale businesses. And we work in challenging places, which is what keeps everything interesting. We’re in 75 markets right now, and, you know, things are changing and developing all the time.

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