By Greg Cannillo, Gabelli School of Business MBA student & Fordham Graduate Net Impact Chapter VP of Strategy & Policy.
This past Wednesday, Fordham welcomed close to 40 Net Impact students and NYC professionals to discuss the role of technology in promoting financial inclusion and its ability to combat poverty. Co-hosted by the Net Impact Professional Chapter, Fordham’s Professor Frank Werner moderated the panel to discuss the growing role of FinTech in order to promote a more inclusive global economy. The expert panel featured Sara Willis of the MetLife Foundation, Herbet Moore Co-Founder of WiseBanyan, and Martin Slawek of the Initiative for Smallholder Finance. All three speakers began by briefly discussing their paths to joining their current organizations, and the particular concerns which face their organizations going forward. Later, topics included the great “omission in financial services”: currently over 2 billion adults do not have a formal bank account due to financial or geopolitical inhibitors.
Mr. Herbert began the night by discussing the financial gap in the developed world which inspired him to found his company. WiseBanyan’s goal is to serve individuals and families who do not meet the rigid asset minimums of traditional large financial institutions. Via his company’s technology platform, clients are able to invest their savings at a marginal fee, yet still receive the management expertise previously unavailable to them.
Ms. Willis spoke about MetLife’s recent commitment of $200 million dollars to promote financial inclusion starting in 2015. She continued by discussing the benefits and challenges of working for a corporate foundation and how the dynamics of corporate philanthropy are rapidly changing around the world. She expounded on MetLife’s tactics of tweaking the traditional foundational model to support organizations that will further societal impact in over 30 countries in which the MetLife Foundation is working with.
Mr. Slawek explained how his company enables micro-loans to rural farmers in the developing world seeking funding to enable them to make purchases as small as a single goat or cow to start their farming practices. With the use of technology, impoverished farmers are able to establish “credit scores” that will enable them to borrow from more formal banking institutions in the future as their practices grow. Further, technology enables these farmers to more easily access existing value chains that they are currently unable to access in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.