Industry Profile – Gabriella Kindert
Known for her ability to spot an opportunity, and for her fearlessness when it comes to speaking her mind, we couldn’t wait to learn more about Gabriella Kindert, Head of Alternative Credit at NN Investment Partners (NN IP), and to hear her thoughts on the future of alternative credit.
Kindert joined NN IP (formerly ING Investment Management) in October 2016. It is the asset management arm of NN Group, formed when the Dutch government required ING bank to divest its insurance and asset management divisions after the 2008 financial crisis. Over the past year, under her leadership, NN IP’s alternative credit portfolio has grown from EUR 14 billion to EUR 18 billion.
“I always wanted to become a banker,” she says. She was born in Hungary and, despite not speaking any other languages at the time, moved to the Netherlands to begin her studies and earned her MBA from Maastricht School of Management. She began her career at MeesPierson, and almost a decade later was working at BNP Paribas Investment Partners when the financial crisis hit.
“The entire market collapsed, and it created an opportunity to reinvent myself and my department,” Kindert says. “I had a great mentor at the time, Maryam Muessel, who encouraged me to explore creating loan products for institutional investors.” Banks weren’t lending, and institutional investors were starved for yield. “I thought this would be a great challenge to undertake,” Kindert recalls.
“We prepared for just six months, did my first roadshows, and raised EUR 200 million on the first day of the official roadshow from a top tier Swedish pension fund,” she says. “At the time, I did not realize how lucky that was. I had no assets under management yet, but their CIO believed in me.”
By 2009 Kindert had established their European loan investment business, successfully raised and managed money from institutions for a range investment vehicles (CLO, SICAV SIF, Structured Notes), and had become head of the Global Loan Platform.
Impressively, during this same time, Kindert also had her first child. And it was then, she says, she set two critical missions for herself: to prioritize family life and to explore the world outside banking. “I gave myself complete room to discover. To see what comes to me? If I find a passion for something else, I’ll go do that,” she remembers.
But she didn’t stumble onto a hidden passion for painting or end up wandering too far away from banking — although she did publish a couple books about diet and stress; The Busy Executive Diet: How to Achieve Your Ideal Weight, Sharpen Your Brain and Balance Your Mind and Less Stress: 88 best practices and inspirations from historical leaders. She also took a lot of courses, but ultimately kept coming back to one question, “What needs to happen next in the financial industry?” This led her quite naturally to discover online lending and financial technology, and the pursuit of her doctorate, focusing on the space.
“I say what I believe in, and accept the consequences. Good or bad.” She adds, “I’m not afraid to call out the elephant-in-the-room.”
When asked to describe her style, Kindert says: “I say what I believe in, and accept the consequences. Good or bad.” She adds, “I’m not afraid to call out the elephant-in-the-room.” For example, Kindert says that too few people have the courage to admit when returns are down, and tough decisions called for. “That’s a big problem in our industry,” she notes.
With regards to alternative lending and credit, Kindert continues, “I truly believe in the future of alternative lending and credit. Particularly those lenders that are developing business models focused on promoting financial inclusion and providing financing to underserved markets.” Small businesses were hit particularly hard by the credit crisis in Europe. While certain segments have recovered (large companies and investment-grade borrowers), she notes that there is still high demand from small businesses for credit in the EUR 50 thousand to EUR 1 million range. “This is a segment where new, faster, and more efficient credit models based on real-time data integration from various sources could make a significant difference.”
Similar to the U.S. market in 2014 and 2015, institutional investors are increasingly becoming a source of funding for European online lenders. Kindert also see’s a certain amount of consolidation on the horizon in Europe. “I do expect strong support from both institutional investors and banks investing in these platforms in the next 48 months. Some lending platforms will certainly be bought by banks; some will remain independent, maybe IPO-ed,” she says. Continuing, “I clearly see some bigger players emerging in Europe. Some have already gained the attention of higher scale investors. It will become increasingly difficult for smaller players to compete unless they have something really unique to offer on either data and/or risk models or in terms of business models.”
It’s that honesty, courage, and foresight that helps set Gabriella Kindert apart and makes her a person to watch.