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What We’re Watching: Mary Ellen Iskenderian at Tedx Wall Street

By Lauren Williamson

How did you pay for your house? Your car? Your children’s college education?

If you’re like most people, you took out loans. You repaid them with hard-earned money stashed away in an interest-bearing savings account. You worked with a financial advisor to ensure you borrowed and invested wisely. And you took out insurance to provide for your family in the event something catastrophic should happen.

Each of these financial services is part of a system that keeps you and your family secure. But this infrastructure that many of us take for granted is both mysterious and seemingly unattainable for the more than 3 billion people worldwide who live unbanked.

Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian recently spoke at Tedx Wall Street about the importance of providing holistic financial services to people working their way out of poverty through microfinance.

Helping clients earn money through business-invigorating loans isn’t enough, she said, if they don’t have the training to manage their money, a savings account to keep it safe and insurance to safeguard against disaster.

“When we provide the right tools for the poor to manage their money, we are providing so much more than financial security,” Iskenderian said. “We are freeing them to dream and plan and hope for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”

Opportunity International shares the same philosophy. That’s why every loan comes with a suite of training that helps our clients learn basic skills for earning, spending, budgeting and borrowing money. We also set clients up in Trust Groups, which provide a support system of members who reinforce the training and guarantee each other’s loans.

Loans aren’t delivered in a silo, either. Opportunity International offers clients a full suite of products, including savings accounts, insurance and the technology to help them efficiently manage their money.

The effect when you offer financial security to just one entrepreneur is huge: She can feed her family, send her kids to school and encourage her whole community’s economy.

“Multiply that by 3 billion,” Iskenderian said, “and the world starts to look like a very different place.”

Watch the video: There's Nothing Micro About 1 Billion Women: Mary Ellen Iskenderian at Tedx Wall Street

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