Finance Specialization

Founder of the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution argues for relentlessly focusing on efficiency

Founder of the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution argues for relentlessly focusing on efficiency

Shafiqual Chowdhury, the founder of ASA, the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution according to Forbes magazine, visited NYU Wagner on October 22, 2008, to share perspectives with students.  In his remarks, Chowdhury argued for maintaining a relentless focus on efficiency: by being  as efficient as possible in delivering services, costs can come down and profits go up.  Only with profits, Chowdhury argued, is massive scale possible.  ASA now provides financial services to 7 million low-income women in Bangladesh, and recently closed a $150 million fund to expand their model elsewhere in Asia.

"ASA's story challenges decades of thinking about strategies to achieve economic and social development," writes Jonathan Morduch, professor at NYU Wagner and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative,  in the foreword to a new book on ASA (The Pledge: ASA, Peasant Politics, and Microfinance in the Development of Bangladesh by Stuart Rutherford, forthcoming in 2009 from Oxford University Press). By transforming from an NGO focused on grassroots political change into a financial institution, Morduch argues, ASA's history forces observers to "contemplate what has been gained and lost.  What has been possible and what was perhaps utopian, ill-advised, and presumptuous."

The event was organized by the NYU Microfinance Initiative and supported by the Financial Access Initiative.

 

Furman Center releases new study on racial segregation and subprime lending

Furman Center releases new study on racial segregation and subprime lending

On November 19, 2009, the Furman Center released a new report examining the relationship between residential segregation and subprime lending. The study examined whether the likelihood that borrowers of different races received a subprime loan varied depending on the level of racial segregation. It looked both at the role of racial segregation in metropolitan areas across the country and at the role that neighborhood demographics within communities in New York City played. The report found that, nationally, black borrowers living in the most racially segregated metropolitan areas were more likely to receive subprime loans than black borrowers living in the least racially segregated metropolitan areas. When looking just at New York City neighborhood demographics, the report found that living in a predominantly non-white neighborhood made it more likely that borrowers of all races would receive a subprime loan.

The Furman Center is a leading academic research center, and a joint initiative of NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the School of Law. The director is Vicki Been, the Boxer Family Professor of Law, and the co-director is Professor Ingrid Ellen of Wagner.

Global Experts Offer First Look at New Research on Microfinance

Global Experts Offer First Look at New Research on Microfinance

More than 200 researchers, practitioners and business leaders convened in New York City for a first look at research results on the impact of microfinance. The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010, co-hosted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at NYU Wagner and other leading research and financial institutions, was held Thursday, October 21st; 22nd; and 23rd at headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation.

The research presented at the Conference follows on the heels of an initial report, released in 2009, about the first-ever randomized evaluations of microfinance, which sparked a debate over whether and how much microfinance is helping the poor. The results of several follow-up studies presented at the latest Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference offer fresh insights on how and to what degree microfinance affects the lives of poor households around the world.

"The results of the first microfinance impact evaluations were controversial because the world was eager to find that one magic bullet that will finally "solve" poverty," said Esther Duflo, co-author of one of the first-ever impact evaluations of microfinance in India, and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The studies showed that microfinance is not magic. But while we didn't discover that microfinance launches people out of poverty, we did discover that it's making a very real difference to some people. The new, forthcoming research will help us discover more about who benefits from microfinance and help us design financial products that work better for the poor."

The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010 attracted senior researchers, policymakers, practitioners and investors committed to preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in microfinance, and to the global expansion of financial markets in poor communities. The event was hosted by not only the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), but also by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Moody's Corporation, Deutsche Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).

Important new impact results from a randomized evaluation of a microfinance program in Morocco were aired, along with evaluations of microsavings and microinsurance, and livelihood programs for the "ultra poor." Conference sessions were devoted to the presentation of new research on microfinance product design, social performance measurement, and consumer protection. Additionally, illuminating sessions were dedicated to bringing together researchers and practitioners to design future research on product design and financial inclusion that will help usher in the next generation of services for the "bottom billion."

 

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