The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. Since its launch in 1956, the IFC has promoted the expansion of the private sector through lending to private companies without government guarantees. Lars Thunell was appointed Executive Vice President of the organization in January 2006.
The IFC, in addition to mobilizing capital in international financial markets, provides a range of services to support the expansion of the private sector in the developing world. This includes support to social and environmental sustainability, technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. The IFC President is always the World Bank Group’s President - currently Paul Wolfowitz - and as Executive Vice President, Lars manages IFC’s day-to-day operations. One of his first moves was to announce the appointment of Regional and Sectoral Vice Presidents in March this year. Lars explained, “Given the growth of IFC and the need for greater decentralization, I have decided that the organization needs to be adjusted accordingly. I believe that these appointments will help us in our goal of improved World Bank Group development effectiveness.”
The IFC had a committed portfolio of US$ 19.3 billion for its own account and US$ 5.3 billion held for participants in loan syndications in financial year 2005. This included support to a range of enterprises to some of the poorest countries in the world, including African nations. “Much of Africa continues to benefit from the recovery of the world economy, including rising commodity prices, improved macroeconomic stability, and greater regional stability. But challenges remain in generating private sector development and overcoming the region’s weak investment climate. It is in these areas that IFC hopes to continue playing a significant role,” said Lars.
A Swedish national, Lars’s career was based in the private sector of the financial services industry. Immediately, prior to his current position, he worked as CEO of the Swedish corporate bank SEB, a post he had held since 1997. He has also held high-level management positions in other financial and industrial companies such as American Express, ABB, Nordbanken, Securum and Trygg-Hansa, as well as numerous non-executive board positions with international companies and non-governmental organizations. He has a doctorate from the University of Stockholm and was a research fellow at the Harvard University Center for International Affairs.
The IFC celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, and Lars emphasized the need to continually expand economic participation for growth. “More and more development and aid organizations - multilateral banks, foundations, nonprofits - are looking at an entrepreneurial approach to development. They are asking how they can harness the power of private capital, free enterprise, and social entrepreneurship to bring about needed change. This is where IFC, with 50 years of experience in this area, can play an even larger role.” said Lars.