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Breakout Session: Developing the Next Generation of Microfinance Bankers

By Andrew Macdonald

Recruiting, hiring and retaining key staff–from loan officers to CEOs–who are technically excellent and who embrace a culture of serving people living in poverty with client-centered products is critical to our success. Find out more about Opportunity International’s partnership with Credit Suisse to build a comprehensive leadership and staff development initiative across our operations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Facilitator: Connie Stryjak, senior VP, human resources


Anessa Chui, program manager, Credit Suisse, Hong Kong

Nadine Pembele, training director, Opportunity DRC

In the next five years at Opportunity we will be hiring close to 7,000 staff making a strong training program–very important to bring staff up to speed. Opportunity is looking to develop a culture of leadership within the organization. In order to do this, Opportunity’s Emerging Leaders Program (part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative) and Hire Right, Train Right, Treat Right programs were created.

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was designed to help the organization:

  • increase the quality and bench strength of the leadership pipeline
  • improve performance management and the authentic values-based relationships with employees
  • improve holistic transformational impact among staff and clients
  • improve business results, increase leaders`engagement, retention, and team work
  • blended employee development system

Hire Right, Train Right, Treat Right (HTTR) is an in-branch, leader lead training that looks at developing our core values and create the standards for development.

Opportunity’s newest bank in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been a great training ground for implementing these programs that have been designed to adapt to the local culture. Since starting with their first client in January 2011, the DRC has grown to 5,350 clients and recently opened up its second branch.


Anessa, why is Credit Suisse supporting Opportunity and interested in capacity building?
They wanted to do something that was different in a way to support microfinance. It is also a great way for them to lend their skills to Opportunity. They choose Opportunity because they are interested in partnering with organizations that are focused on what they do and know that business, so Credit Suisse can then help them expand in other areas of need that may be lacking.

Staffs’ reaction to the training–they were very excited to be able to work for Opportunity and excited that the organization is interested in seeing them grow as people. It is a new culture that Opportunity is bringing into the Congo that is not about management overseeing them, but working alongside them with respect.

How do you blend the values of the traditional banking with the non-profit in training?
It is by focusing everything on the core values, creating the “Opportunity Way,” that will help set the expectations and the staff is expected to keep a specific standard based on these values. At the same time, the leadership will also be working under those values and the staff will be able to expect the same respectful treatment.

One of the challenges that Opportunity has had is in staff retention because the word on the street has been “let Opportunity hire them and train them and then we will hire them”

In addition, employees come because of the mission of Opportunity. They could work elsewhere for more money, but they are there for the mission. They are loan officers but are also marketers, debt collectors, social workers and more. As Connie sees it, “The heart, hands and feet of Opportunity are our loan officers.”

This post was written by Andrew Macdonald. Andrew is the Manager of YAO and Philanthropy for Opportunity International Canada. In his role, he is excited about seeing Canadians meet their dreams of making a global difference and transforming their own lives.

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