An interview with Mary Ellen Iskenderian at the TEDxWallStreet backstage

October 30, 2013

TEDxWallStreet: New Ideas Reaching New Markets

Behind the scenes with TEDx speaker Mary Ellen Iskenderian of Women’s World Banking

TEDx is about inspiring big ideas, and some of the biggest came under the spotlight on The Big Stage of the New York Stock Exchange this week at TEDxWallStreet.

“It’s a great venue, the seat of American capital,” says Mary Ellen Iskenderian, CEO of Women’s World Banking and one of the featured speakers this year. WWB is a global nonprofit that works with dozens of financial institutions from 28 countries to develop products specially suited to the needs of low-income women.

Iskenderian, who is also an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, explains that Women’s World Banking researches specific markets in developing countries to understand women’s needs and the kind of financial instruments that would work for them. It then helps financial institutions create affordable products — special types of savings accounts, insurance or microloans — tailored for low-income women. “There’s a huge market opportunity there. This isn’t about charity,” she explains.

Such markets are not top of mind for most financial institutions, Iskenderian says, because they tend to be thought of in terms of making potentially risky loans to poorer populations — people who often don’t have collateral or an established financial profile. So her organization has helped to develop savings products for some banks. “The safety and security of a bank account is truly aspirational to these populations,” she says.

In Nigeria, Women’s World Banking worked with Diamond Bank on one such project. Women’s World Banking research found that women there had savings, but the money was usually insecurely tucked away at home. Those women needed and wanted bank accounts that would be confidential and safe. “Within four months, Diamond had built up 38,000 accounts,” says Iskenderian.

Read the rest of the article on the NYSE Big Stage website

Newslink: New Ideas Reaching New Markets