13 June 2005

Wall Street Women Team Up With United Nations on Microfinance


NEW YORK, 10 June (UN Capital Development Fund) -- The financial industry joined the United Nations today to discuss how the growing microfinance sector can benefit from the expertise of Wall Street.

As part of the United Nations International Year of Microcredit, Wall Street professionals focused on their role-making financial services available to the vast numbers of poor and low-income people around the world who currently need them.

In her opening remarks, Nane Annan, wife of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told attendees about her personal experiences meeting women who have benefited from microfinance.

"The Year of Microcredit is a chance to highlight what women in poverty can do when given a chance, and the important roles that access to credit, savings, and other financial services play in their lives", said Mrs. Annan.

Tom Easton, New York Bureau Chief of The Economist, moderated an expert panel on how Wall Street can apply sophisticated financial solutions to the emerging sector of microfinance.

"We are just at the beginning of the relationship between the microfinance world and the traditional financial sector. This relationship will grow quickly from now on", said panellist Jack Lowe, CEO of BlueOrchard Finance. Mr. Lowe added "the challenge is to be able to allow private capital to accompany the microfinance growth, and to do so with full confidence, reasonable return, and a real and tangible contribution to the developing world".

Mr. Lowe and other experts stressed that microfinance must be viewed an investment opportunity. "Microfinance is not a charity", said Maria Otero, President and CEO of ACCION International, and long-time microfinance champion. "One of the pillars of our work has been to connect those institutions banking the poor with international capital markets."

"For microfinance institutions to become a lasting solution to global poverty, they have to adopt financial strategies used on Wall Street", said David Satterwaite, CEO of Prisma Microfinance. "Given the potential returns, we expect investors will begin to see microfinance as a viable asset class."

The event was co-hosted by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Financial Women's Association, Women Advancing Microfinance, Women's Association of Venture Equity, Women's Bond Club of New York and 85 Broads.

"Women on Wall Street are well positioned to champion change in this industry and allow for wealth creation by women living in poverty around the world today", said Robyn Sacks, organizer of the event and an associate of AlpInvest Partners.

Microfinance benefits women in particular, as women represent 70 per cent of the world's poor people.

The International Year of Microcredit 2005 has succeeded in gaining widespread support, with nearly half of the countries worldwide actively engaged.

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