Bridging the Gap: In Conversation with TerraProtein's CEO Bor Boer
It's time to remedy the "disconnect" between agricultural operators and the finance world, says TerraProtein Equity Partners chief executive officer Bor Boer.
"Financial and operational perspectives can vary significantly, so it can be a challenge to successfully marry investment capital with good agricultural operators, but there is a really compelling opportunity to bridge that gap, Boer says.
That's the main premise behind TerraProtein Equity Partners - an agricultural advisory and investment firm established in 2014 whose very purpose is to align investors with leading agricultural businesses, fostering long-term partnerships that enable growth opportunities in food and agriculture around the world.
At the helm
Partner and CEO of TerraProtein Equity Partners, Boer was born in Rwanda and raised in the Netherlands. He went onto establish a successful, global career in banking with the leading food and agribusiness lender, Rabobank.
Boer joined Rabobank in 2003 in Tokyo, Japan, then transitioned into various roles with the bank's vendor finance arm, De Lage Landen, developing the infrastructure and supporting the commercial roll out in various Asian jurisdictions including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea.
In later roles with Rabobank, Boer oversaw Rabobank China's international wholesale client portfolio including subsidiaries of European and American food & agri multinationals and small to medium enterprises. He has worked on various bilateral and syndicated lending transactions in size ranging from EUR 20mln to EUR 2bln. His most recent positions include director Corporate Lending Wholesale Clients Rabobank Netherlands and director Capital Structuring Asia, Rabobank Netherlands and Hong Kong. He holds a Bachelor and Master in Economics, University of Amsterdam and also studied at Keio University, Tokyo, Japan and the Universidad de Empresas, Montevideo, Uruguay.
What attracted Boer to the food and agribusiness sector initially was its people, he says.
"I was drawn to the mixture of people, the products, and the fact that agriculture is a global industry so it's very international, but still maintains a tangible, local presence," he says.
"The people tend to be very down-to-earth with strong ties to their local environment. It's a sector that is progressing and developing all the time - its not a static industry, but a moving one, in terms of technology, commodities, and trade."
Its not just the food and agribusiness sector alone that motivates Boer, but the opportunity to build businesses on an international scale. Commencing his time with Rabobank in Tokyo in 2002, he helped set the strategic direction for Rabobank's commercial banking and leasing operations in Japan, which was a relatively new territory for the bank at the time. This resulted in some time with the Rabobank's vendor finance arm, De'Lage Landen, who then brought Boer across to its regional team to expand operations in new markets in Asia.
"A lot of the work at the time was business development, something that comes naturally to me," he says.
"We grew the business from Singapore and then to China. My ambition had always been to work in China because I was fascinated by the economic growth and potential of the Chinese market [in the mid 2000’s] in its ‘expansion-mode’.
"Anything was possible at that time. You felt that every day was better than the one before. Things were really going ahead and it was a very positive environment to be in. Leasing and vendor finance was underutilised at the time in China so we had to develop a market so it was quite pioneering."