On April 20th, leaders from various microfinance organizations gathered together to discuss the future of microfinance. Co-hosted by the Month of Microfinance and the Microfinance CEO Working Group and held at FINCA headquarters in Washington, DC, the panel included Scott Brown, President and CEO of VisionFund; Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking; Rupert Scofield, President of FINCA International; and Kathleen Stack, Interim President and CEO of Freedom from Hunger. The panel was moderated by Sharlene Brown, Director of the Microfinance CEO Working Group.
The consensus among the four leaders was that serving more women and investing in technology were the key areas microfinance organizations should focus on for the future.
“For women earning under $2 a day, there is a 28 percent gap between their likelihood of access to financial services compared to men,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian. “We have to be absolutely focused that women don’t get left behind.” Kathleen Stack agreed and pointed out her organization’s success in reaching women through savings groups. “Savings groups have been an amazing way to organize women and empower them to manage money,” she said.
Technology is one possible solution to reach the “unbanked.” Rupert Scofield pointed out that the majority of Ugandans accessing financial services are in urban areas and the rural are being left out. “The big question we are discussing is how to fill that space [reaching the rural] and how technology will help us to do that,” he said. Scott Brown detailed some of the challenges to reach the rural. “Unless we drop our costs, we will not be able to go out to the rural areas. Technology is really important but it is hard and it costs money. But there is hope,” he said.
For more insights from the four leaders, watch a replay of the discussion.