KfW has been helping the German Federal Government achieve its goals with respect to development policy and international cooperation for over 50 years. The Director of KfW Development Bank’s representative office in Cambodia recently changed and the ADW met Harald Hüttenrauch to talk about his coming term.
Why did you decide to come to Cambodia?
After 15 years of successfully working as a professional in both KfW’s Capital markets and Restructuring departments –the latter at which I headed the banking team- I felt it was time to take on new challenges. I have always wanted to work and live in Southeast Asia. Assuming the position as Director of KfW representative office in Phnom Penh in addition marked my return to KfW Development Bank, the business area in our large institution where I started my career more than 25 years ago.
What priorities are you setting for your work?
According to World Bank criteria, Cambodia recently became a lower-middle-income country. For a banker also deeply rooted in development cooperation I foresee the advantage and relevance of this upgrade as Cambodia’s economic development continues and the country is, from a German Development Cooperation perspective, increasingly becoming eligible for other funding instruments other than grants. So business development is certainly one of my goals. Furthermore, our representative office in Phnom Penh also serves as an entry point for Cambodian private investors and/or German enterprises trying to do business in Cambodia; the same applies to potential clients for export finance and project finance. Since KfW-DEG and KfW-IPEX Bank, two of our subsidiaries, are still not present in Cambodia and we would be delighted to bring interested parties together with them.
Cambodia is a multifaceted country. It has a unique political, economical and social situation. Where do you see KFW's role in this context in the coming years?
Our role in the field of German development cooperation is that of an experienced bank and an institution specializing in development policy. On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), KfW Development Bank has supported projects and programs in Cambodia for more than 20 years – from their conception and execution through to monitoring their success. Our main activities have consisted in supporting the Cambodian government in the areas of health and rural development through grant schemes as well as through concessional loans to local financial institutions specializing in lending to micro, small and medium enterprises. For the time being, providing health care support to poor and vulnerable people and building climate-resilient rural roads as well as connecting villages to trading centers will continue to be focal areas of German development cooperation. Looking forward, we also envisage opportunities in the energy sector to provide more rural homes with electricity and to increase energy efficiency, and other interventions. It would be a pleasure to link the local business community with our subsidiaries and, in line with our main competitors, to move gradually into concessional loan financing.
Which obstacles are you expecting for your work here in Cambodia?
I began my professional career in the mid-80s working as a consultant in a team that supported the Peruvian government to establish a system of municipal savings and credit banks in the country. Later I did research work in Ghana and Tanzania and I also worked four years at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C. Working and living abroad has always been a big challenge, everywhere! To work successfully in an unknown country requires trying to understand the local people and the local culture as well as possible. Of course, the Cambodian mindset differs from the German one. That is why listening to people and establishing trustful relationships are crucial. However, this can be difficult especially with cultural differences, such as, for example, the different approaches to transmitting “bad” news. Furthermore, our work mainly involves state actors and public administrations, which tend to be complex entities all over the world. The challenge consists in trying to better understand methods and approaches to communication and decision-making. Luckily, I can count on my small but fine team who all support me in this process. Nevertheless, and this is certainly not an experience unique only to me, it will be a long way until we will be able to complete our mission.
Working in this field can be truly challenging, most of all when it comes to sustainability. Where do you get your personal motivations from?
I have almost spent my whole career working in the area of development. KfW is one of the largest promotional banks in the world, supporting change and encouraging forward-looking ideas – in Germany, Europe and throughout the world. At the end of the 90s I undertook my first business trip to Southeast Asia. I was impressed by how dynamic and educated people were in the region. I imagined that it would be an exciting venture to work with them. Ever since, I have always wanted to live and work in the region for some years, however, because of family reasons I could not pursue this plan earlier. With the opportunity to be the new Director of KfW Development Bank’s representative office in Phnom Penh this decade long dream has now become reality. The move to Cambodia was basically unproblematic. For several years now our two children are no longer living at home as they study in Marburg (Psychology) and in Maastricht (International Business Administration). Recently, our son specialized in emerging markets and is very interested to work in the region as well. Our daughter is exploring possibilities to do some work in Cambodia on psychology during her Master’s year. I am motivated by the new experiences possible here, both in my professional and private life, as well as the possibility of being able to spend some time living as a family here together again, at least temporarily. I also enjoy soccer and have been a supporter of Eintracht Frankfurt for many decades. Most of the games are broadcasted live on TV in Phnom Penh. Wouldn’t it be exciting to start the first Eintracht Frankfurt fan club in Cambodia? My wife will arrive in town in the middle of November. Overall, I am assuming that we will have a successful and pleasant stay here in this beautiful country.