FIDES aims to contribute with reliable sustainable solutions to the key issue of facilitating economic development by creating access to financial services for micro entrepreneurs who are excluded from the formal banking system.



FIDES | FINANCIAL SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT SERVICES AG is a company focusing on the development and management of sustainable rural microfinance institutions and related research and consulting activities. Created in 1996 in France and located in Fribourg, Switzerland since 2007, FIDES brings a long experience in the field of financial systems development and small business promotion. Together with its institutional partners (Deutschen Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), IFAD and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), among others), FIDES has set up successful microfinance institutions in several countries in Africa and Eastern Europe, ranging from microfinance banks to savings and loan association networks and a Sharia-compliant financial services company in Algeria. FIDES has also provided expert support to a large number of other microfinance institutions.

In 2007, FIDES has created the swiss microfinance holding sa (SMH), an investment vehicle which is providing capital and is contributing to sound governance within the group of professional MFIs that Financial Systems Development Services AG (FIDES) develops through its technical assistance services.


FIDES will be a leading private organization developing sustainable rural finance solutions. Together with its strategic partners, FIDES will make a significant and lasting contribution to poverty alleviation through an entrepreneurial approach, supporting a dedicated group of cutting edge financial institutions operating in the most challenging environments in the world.

FIDES' Mission

In the challenging context of pushing out the frontier of rural finance, FIDES' mission is to expand access to reliable, efficient and sustainable financial services for clients who are excluded from the formal banking system. With its operations located primarily in Africa and Eastern Europe, the core focus of FIDES is the creation and management of successful microfinance institutions in rural areas. FIDES believes that these challenges can and must be met head on by investing in the understanding of client needs and by taking a realistic long-term view of what it takes to put viable solutions into place to meet those needs. This entails developing innovative approaches to rural finance (specialized products and technology) and investing in careful institutional development that is sound in terms of financial base, governance, management, systems and human capacity. The FIDES approach includes:

The FIDES Approach

Creation of new microfinance institutions. The focus of FIDES is the creation of greenfield microfinance institutions in rural areas and in secondary towns. When targeting rural areas, adjustment to local conditions is a critical element of success, requiring innovative and environment-sensitive approaches that are at the same time based on international best practice in microfinance.

Where sufficient relevant experience can be brought from other countries, FIDES and its partners launch greenfield formal financial institutions directly. In more challenging contexts, FIDES develops the concept of the institution and confirms its feasibility through a pilot-testing phase that verifies the hypotheses on markets, products, clients and organizational setting. Pilot operations, supported by international donor agencies including GIZ, IFAD and the World Bank, are transformed into commercial equity-based formal financial institutions, with private social investments ensuring the sustainable long-term development of the institutions.

FIDES is currently investing in the development and implementation of new technologies for branchless banking (e.g. mobile phone banking, POS systems) to maintain and improve competitiveness as well as to accelerate outreach. FIDES is convinced that the success of rural microfinance will depend heavily on continued technological and organizational innovation.

Expertise. Beyond its own group, FIDES carries out feasibility studies and/or evaluations for donor agencies and investors, develops strategies for microfinance institutions and supports the introduction of technical and organizational innovations. On the macro-level, FIDES has provided expertise for sector analyses as a basis for the development and implementation of countrywide sector strategies and has been involved in policy, legal and regulatory assessments in view of the creation of conducive legal and regulatory frameworks for microfinance.

Training. FIDES considers that institutional capacity is the key issue for further expansion of microfinance institutions. It has organized a large number of training seminars and sessions in partner countries and provides significant support to building local training capacity. FIDES is the technical input provider for a Master of Science in Microfinance degree, a one-year postgraduate training program organized by the University of Montpellier, France.

Research and development. An important research component focusing on concrete development issues enables FIDES to innovate in its institution-building programs. FIDES conducts applied research on relevant topics throughout its MFI network to better understand clients, their household economy and businesses, and how they use products and services. The objective is to ensure that FIDES reaches its target clients and that its products and services are innovative and are adapted to client demand.

FIDES Organization and Management

FIDES President and Managing Director Konrad Ellsässer and Co-Director Markus Schär lead the company. Markus Schär has taken over parts of the every day management of FIDES and Konrad Ellsässer concentrates on the strategy of the company and its implementation. In this context, he is also coordinating the relations with partners of FIDES and SMH.

FIDES Perspectives

FIDES, SMH and its partners are well on their way to developing a network of ten microfinance institutions by 2020, while engaging at the same time in other strategically important intiatives in the realm of rural finance. This network of institutions will help create synergies, economies of scale and scope through shared support including backstopping, training, IT management, control, product development, client assessment and social performance and reinforcement of the efficiency and profitability of each MFI in the network. Related consultancy and research activities will allow FIDES to remain on the forefront of new developments, contibute to the expansion of the FIDES/SMH MFI portfolio and ensure the strength of FIDES' position within the access to finance landscape.