New Center to Foster Financial Inclusion of World’s Poor through Private-Sector Engagement
‘Center for Financial Inclusion’ Will Advance Commercial Microfinance While Ensuring Interests, Needs of Poor Households
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2008 – Can commercial microfinance institutions organize themselves to protect the interests of their poor clients? The Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International is launching its activities today with a focus on answering that provocative question, among others. The Center will connect private-sector, non-profit and academic expertise and resources to accelerate the reach and increase the quality of microfinance worldwide.
The Center’s goal is to advance the commercial model of microfinance while upholding the interests and needs of poor clients worldwide. Its Advisory Council members are drawn from a broad range of public- and private-sector institutions and academia, and include: Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation; Christina Leijonhufvud, managing director of Social Sector Finance for JPMorgan (JPM); Marguerite Robinson of Harvard University; Robert O’Brien, head of credit for Risk Management at Credit Suisse (CS); Kate McKee, senior advisor at the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP); Tony Goland, senior partner at McKinsey & Co., and many others.
Through innovative partnerships, research and piloting, the Center will pursue the proposition that low-income people deserve high-quality financial services, and that those services can best be provided through collaboration with, and engagement of, the capital markets and commercial institutions – banks, investors, regulators, technology firms, and more, who are committed to incorporating a social purpose.
Established under the auspices of pioneering microfinance organization ACCION International and supported by founding sponsor Credit Suisse, the Center will dedicate its efforts to three principal program areas: consumer protection, product innovation, and microfinance investment.
“Progress in bringing the benefits of financial services to all of the world’s poor requires many actors working together,” said Elisabeth Rhyne, managing director of the Center. “Our goal is to foster collaboration that will deliver tangible results in building an inclusive financial sector worldwide.”
Consumer protection will form a cornerstone of the Center’s programs. The Center is leading a research program on the state of consumer protection inside microfinance institutions, as well as an awareness-raising campaign focused on key consumer protection principles. The Center’s ‘Double Bottom Line’ initiatives will also include impact studies for microfinance institutions, and social performance monitoring.
The Center’s ‘Client-Product Connection’ program will advance new business practices in microfinance designed to lower costs and bring new value to poor clients, such as its innovative ‘Energy Links’ project in Uganda, aimed at engaging microfinance institutions in helping to bring solar lighting to homes in Uganda and eventually other countries in Africa. Its third major program area, ‘Investing in Inclusive Finance,’ will help shape the terms on which debt and equity investors relate to microfinance institutions.
All Center projects will be supported by a dedicated publications and outreach department, designed to foster industry collaboration through the dissemination of key research and developments, while the Faculty Council, drawing from some of the nation’s top universities and business schools, will provide both guidance and links to business and graduate degree programs.
Also launching today is the Center’s website, www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org, which will serve as an online platform for microfinance discussion and research. The Center will also be launching a blog, ‘The Inclusive Finance Forum,’ that will feature posts from Center staff and fellows, Advisory Council members and other notable leaders working in the financial services industry.
About the Center for Financial InclusionThe Center for Financial Inclusion pursues the proposition that low-income people deserve high-quality financial services and that these services can best be provided through commercial models that incorporate social purpose. The Center, located in Washington, D.C. and Boston, MA, works on behalf of the microfinance industry as a whole, serving as a bridge that leverages private-sector interest in the provision of financial services for the poor. With an emphasis on collaboration, the Center is outcomes-focused, setting specific goals and measures of accountability for real-world change through inclusive finance. For more information, please visit www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org
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Contact:Caroline Mauldin, Communications OfficerCenter for Financial Inclusion1401 New York Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C.20005+1-202-393-5113 firstname.lastname@example.org