Finance Leaders Who Have Made an Impact on Fighting Poverty

In 1995, nearly 30 percent of the entire world was living in poverty. Fast forward to today, only 10% of the world population lives in extreme poverty. While that is still far too high, it’s significant progress.

In this post we examine 3 world leaders that have played a significant role in combatting poverty around the world in various ways.

Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen bank

Muhammad Yunus - Wikipedia
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Muhammad Yunus was originally born in 1940 in Chittagong. He studied at Dhaka University for his undergraduate degree, then came to the US on scholarship to earn his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University. After a stint teaching at Middle Tennessee State, he returned to Bangladesh and became the chair of the economics department at Chittagong University.

On one fateful trip – a field trip to a poor village with this students – Yunus witnessed a woman selling bamboo stools who had borrowed money for the materials to produce them. This inspired the modern microfinance movement.

Yunnus’ went on to found Grameen Bank, the world’s first microfinance institution. Grameen Bank would provide relatively low interest loans (in contrast to high interest payday loans) to individual micro-entrepreneurs. The bank’s mission was to use microfinance to end poverty. Grameen Bank exists to this day, earning annual revenue of $150 million US in 2010. The institution has helped lift millions out of poverty, and suprisingly over 90% of loans are repaid.

Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and is the author of ‘Banker to the Poor’.

Elizabeth Warren, US Senator

When it comes to individuals advocating for the poor in the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren has had nearly the highest impact in recent history.

In her early years, Warren’s father suffered a heart attack, leading to severe meddical debt. Her family’s car was replaced, and at 13, Warren helped support her family by waiting tables. From her career, it’s easy to see how these experiences helped shape her advocacy for the poor.

Warren went on to graduate from the University of Houston and Rutgers Law School, and subsequently began a career in academia, serving at positions at UT Austin, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and eventually Harvard Law.

Warren then went onto advides the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, and eventually was appointed to help oversee TARP.

As an early advocate for an agency that would advocate for consumers, Warren was appointed as a special advisor to President Obama to help establish the Consumer Financial Protection bureau, which is a “The CFPB’s vision is a consumer finance marketplace that works for American consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole.”

As a Senator and presidential candidate, Warren continuously advocates for the poor on a multitude of dimensions. She is a frequent critic of Wall Street, believes that NAFTA should be re-negotiated to help American workers, advocates for Medicare for All, and believes that all Americans should have access to debt-free college.

John Hatch  – Founder of FINCA International

John Hatch is the founder of FINCA International and the rural Development Services.

He was born in the state of Washington in 1940, and attended Johns Hopkins university to earn a BA in History. Post-graduation, he joined the Peace Corps, which brought him to Columbia for 2 years. After continuing with the peace corps for a few more years, he returned to the US to earn a PHD in Economic Development. Over the next 12 years, he served as a consultant on several agricultural projects designed to serve the poor in the developing world

In 1984, Hatch took all of his knowledge, education and experience and founded the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA). FINCA is one of the most influencial non-profit microfinance organizations in history. FINCA is credited for coming up with the ‘village banking’ methodology and has helped millions climb out of poverty.