A skillanthropist is a person or professional with a skill or skills that donates their time, effort, skills but not loads of money to a cause for the betterment of not only society but the world in general.
I recently had the honor of representing the Grameen Foundation at the Global Microcredit Summit in Valladolid, Spain. I was there as part of the skilled volunteer corps who serve Bankers without Borders. The conference was invaluable to gain a better understanding of what challenges the microfinance industry is facing. While I continue to learn about the specifics of the microfinance domain, I was surprised by the number of common challenges which we face in both the retail and microfinance sectors.
Commonalities and Differences
Microfinance industry and retail banking both face overlending in certain segments, regulatory risk and aspire to improve their customers’ financial literacy.
Another commonality of the two industries is the desire to measure KPIs (key performance indices). While we normally measure Profit & Loss and other financial metrics in the traditional banking sector, the MFI industry has an even more difficult challenge — measuring “progress out of poverty”. A microfinance institution is usually viewed as successful if they can become both financially self-sustaining while helping people out of poverty. For example, in Nepal, MFI’s track whether the children in their customer’s households between the ages of 5 and 12 go to school, which is a predictor of movement out of poverty. The MFI has guidelines for sampling their customers to collect a data sample, but obviously this is much more difficult than running a simple frequency distribution of billing file data. Next time you complain about KPIs, think of your microfinance brethren and the challenges they face in measuring and ‘moving the needle’ on progress out of poverty KPIs! It makes our profit & loss KPIs look like a piece of cake.
An important point of distinction of the microfinance industry are its roots in a poverty eradication social movement which provide inspiration and hope for all of us. We cherish this in civil society, as this social element provides support for stability, peace and prosperity to the broader society. Now, as banking professionals, we have the opportunity to support these efforts in a more powerful way.
How you can help
Bankers without Borders is redefining civil society engagement in poverty eradication. In the past, as a banker you could either donate money to a good cause, or volunteer your time as unskilled labor. However, now you can apply your professional skill set as a member of civil society. In my view, this not only puts your valuable skill set to a good cause, but it also fosters important cross-society and cross-sector collaboration.
I would like to congratulate the Grameen Foundation and Bankers without Borders on launching this successful initiative, which is facilitating stronger connections between civil society and those working to escape poverty. Finally, I would like to encourage each of you to find your own way of giving back. Whether through Bankers without Borders, Corporate Volunteering programs, or local volunteering, we all have valuable experience and skills to share. Getting involved, exposing yourself to project risk and criticism, and sacrificing scarce vacation and leisure time can be a more difficult path than simply ‘writing a check’. However, I am pleased to report that the satisfaction, and ‘return on investment’ are likely to be inestimably higher.
“We all have a common responsibility for our world and are connected with everything in it.” – Dalai Lama
May this holiday season bring peace and joy,