"I made rich clients even richer, but wanted to do more..."
Written by Peter Heijen on 27 October 2022
Giving up a successful career in banking to make impact, PlusPlus founder Peter Heijen did it. Previously, as a banker, he made rich people even richer. Now, with PlusPlus, he is building "a community of do-gooders". Soon, this inspiring portrait will appear in Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad.
Banker on the Keizersgracht
"From a stately building on Amsterdam's Keizersgracht, I advised wealthy individuals on shares in companies like Vopak or Shell. Everything was about making money. As much as possible and as fast as possible. About living a luxurious life and being seen. But I began to wonder whether I really wanted to be involved in that. As a boy I could always not stand injustice. And now? Was I still that little boy inside?”
The city where realization hit
Heijen packed his backpack and ended up in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. "What I saw there, I had never seen before. So many begging children on the streets, without mothers. Without a future, too. It touched me; I found that little boy from before again."
Heijen also met a Dutch lady there, Lisa. "She was the owner of the guest house where I was sleeping. I saw how, with that small business, she took care of children who used to live on the streets with work, shelter, clothes, food. She mattered. It made me think: what about me? Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against wealth, but I wanted to do more than make clients who are already well off even richer."
Thinking like a banker
Back in the Netherlands, he started researching the causes of poverty. In a fistful of World Bank reports, he found it: a shortage of jobs. "Jobs come from healthy SMEs. But in many developing countries, an informal economy prevails and most businesses are one-person operations. Mainly because there is no affordable growth capital available."
Less poverty, more food security
Heijen discovered that the food sector in particular has a lot of potential. "Producing and processing food is a labor-intensive process. So, the whole production chain can employ a lot of people. But what if there were a way to help these types of businesses get affordable loans anyway? Then they could grow and hire employees!"
Heijen quit his job and founded a website that connects crowd investors in the Netherlands ("And hopefully one day all of Europe!") with SMEs from developing countries seeking loans. And the return on that financing? "The return cannot be expressed in money. More jobs, less poverty. And, of course, more food security!"
Personally, the former banker gave up a lot financially. "Whether I ever regret that? No. Money does of course affect happiness somewhat. But only to a certain extent. I've learned that living for one another - a giving life, volunteering and with enough free time - offers so much more happiness. Doing something for others also does something for you.”