We meet with impact investing pioneer Andy Kuper, founder and CEO of LeapFrog Investments, and hear how he sees the future of the sector
- Founder and CEO, LeapFrog Investments, 2007- present
- Managing director, Ashoka, 2004-7
- MPhil and PHD, Political Sciences, University of Cambridge
- BA, University of Witwatersrand
In tracing the origins of his decision to establish LeapFrog, Andy Kuper cites a formative episode in his life. “I was there as a student in 1994 the day Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa. The idea that the world could be very badly structured, and a committed group of individuals could fundamentally change that, profoundly shaped me. Markets are not apartheid, but I realised early-on that markets could be exclusionary and irrational, and that needed to be changed.”
In January 2007, Kuper founded LeapFrog Investments with a vision to “find solutions for millions of low-income or excluded people”. Now it is “among the leading financial inclusion investors in the world” and hopes to reach 500 million people this year.
The business started with three agendas: insurance and related financial tools, healthcare and energy, but has added climate investing, as “it has become an ever larger focus for sustainable investment”. LeapFrog recently invested in Sun King in Africa, which finances and serves 20 million people with solar energy.
Kuper has a team of over 80 people, and a preference for “seasoned professionals” such as Raimund Snyders, who was the CEO of Old Mutual Insure and built a major business across Africa, and LeapFrog’s COO Gary Herbert, who co-founded Investment Solutions, a $20bn multi-manager.
“We have created a really deep bench of talent” says Kuper. “True partners with the courage to differ.” He believes strong, senior people become magnets for the right opportunities because they can offer investees meaningful support in building high-impact businesses.
LeapFrog’s ‘Talent Accelerator’ takes them through a mini-MBA, and the company also offers investee companies important tools to improve their customer experience.
Kuper has a good track record securing high-level backers. The original launch was supported by President Clinton and the long list of investors include well-known LPs, ten of the thirty largest insurance companies in the world, three of the four biggest investment banks, a number of the top twenty pension funds and asset managers, and development institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
Kuper summarises: “We attract excellent investors, with an impact soul. We are able to offer …pursuit of outsize returns and true depth of impact.” LeapFrog has now raised $2.5bn.
Amongst these was over $500m each from Prudential Financial and Temasek. The Prudential investment was a key strategic move by the company into the African continent. They created a separate account which LeapFrog which they then to acquire three of the leading insurance and pension players.
The Temasek investment gave LeapFrog much needed growth capital that has allowed them “to really get going”. Kuper adds: “I realised we were values-aligned when Dilhan Pillay, [the CEO of Temasek] asked me in our first meeting: Do you want a 10-year relationship or a 100-year partnership?”
Kuper cites two examples of LeapFrog’s successful strategy. World Remit, now Zepz, is one of the world’s largest digital payments and remittances companies. The company, founded by Ismail Ahmed, spotted an opportunity in the market when traditional players were charging as much as 10 to 15% for customers to remit money. COVID led consumers to abandon branches and switch to banking on their smart phones, and an investment of less than €1bn has since multiplied. In the last capital raise, its headline value was $5 billion.
In the healthcare area, LeapFrog invested in Goodlife pharmacies, originally a small chain of twenty pharmacies. The company now consists of more than 100 health hubs in Kenya and wider East Africa, offering not only medications but telemedicine, pathology and nutrition advice. Kuper says: “If you ask me what impact means, it’s what Goodlife is doing.” He points out that something like 30% of medicines sold out of pharmacies in Kenya are fakes, placebos or mis-prescribed.
Impact investing pioneer
As a pioneer in impact investing, Kuper has been at every step of the industry’s journey. LeapFrog helped the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) to start up in 2007, collaborated in the creation of the IRIS industry metrics, and was a founding member of the 2012 World Economic Forum Working Group on Impact Investing.
He also helped conceive the nine operating principles of impact with the IFC, and recently served on the Steering Committee of the G7 Impact Taskforce.
“When I began, impact investing was in its infancy and many people thought I was delusional,” says Kuper. According to him, LeapFrog was arguably the first fully commercial impact investor, the first equity impact investor to raise $100m, then the first to raise $1bn and the first to reach over 100 million people. “This year we expect to impact 500 million people and my goal is that by 2030 LeapFrog will be reaching over a billion people.”
Kuper’s vision for impact investing was to “establish a large community with the standards necessary to handle other people’s investments in a highly sophisticated way”. He adds: “This has been my life’s work. I now feel, with the industry at some $1 trillion, that we have got to that point and built something that is enduring and accountable.”
Kuper is worried about ‘impact washing’ but even more concerned about ‘impact light’, which he describes as impact without genuine accountability, or without deeply changing people’s lives at scale. Where investors are simply doing the minimum to label a product ‘impact’ to attract capital.
He passionately believe we must do more. “The crucial thing here is that there are 4 billion people, half of humanity, who if they adopt carbon intensive economic practices will doom this planet. It is not just about decarbonising rich countries that are already big polluters. There is far too little focus globally on the end clients in emerging markets and that is the shortfall we are seeking to address. When I stood on that platform with Bill Clinton, I called for the launch of 100 LeapFrogs. If we turn that goal into 1000 LeapFrogs…we could really change the planet.”