One on one with Women’s World Banking’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer

November 30, 2015

The next installment in the blog series, Meet the Women’s World Banking team: an interview with one of our newest team members, Carlos Hornillos.

Carlos Hornillos moved to New York City in his late 20s, after spending the early part of his life in his native Madrid. After more than 15 years in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, he joined Women’s World Banking in October 2015 as Chief Financial and Administrative Officer. We had the chance to chat with him on a typically busy morning in October.

Over the past decade and a half, you’ve worked for an incredibly varied range of organizations in the non-profit and corporate sectors, including Services for the Underserved, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Institute of International Education, Reuters, and a telecommunications firm based in Spain. Is there a common thread that ties together all of these diverse experiences?

Carlos HornillosFor most of them, yes. Three are nonprofits, and another combination of three are international organizations. Working in the international environment is what I find really interesting, the exposure to different cultures and peoples. It was certainly very uncommon in Spain, when I was growing up, to have an interest in global operations. At the Institute of International Education, we worked in between 13 and 17 countries. The Wildlife Conservation Society is operating in about 68 countries around the world. And Reuters covers the whole world. You could see that in my own office there: 70% of my colleagues were foreign-born.

How did you make the shift from the corporate world to non-profits?

I was looking for different opportunities and was interviewing with the Institute of International Education. I didn’t have a good understanding of what a non-profit was because when I was living in Spain, there wasn’t really such an animal. During my interview with the CFO, he brought up the issue, saying, “I know this is completely different from what you’ve been doing but this will add meaning to what you do every day. I think the non-profit world is something you’re going to enjoy and should be embracing.” He got me to look at what it was like to go to a non-profit, and that was it. I’ve been working in the non-profit sector since then.

After you made that decision, what brought you to Women’s World Banking?

When I joined Women’s World Banking, I had been working at Services for the Underserved, which was a dramatic change for me–going from something international (Wildlife Conservation Society) to something based entirely in New York. It wasn’t 24/7 like many international organizations, when you have to worry about whether there’s something going in Tanzania or the Philippines. It was a wonderful experience with different challenges and an important mission. But I was missing the international experience. One thing I found very interesting about Women’s World Banking is that it touched on issues I had always paid attention to, even in college: the impact of giving access to financial instruments to women in different parts of the world, and how that could have an impact not just in terms of more equality for women, but also in bringing security to their households, raising them out of poverty. Over the past number of years I have read articles in the press about microinsurance, and one of the things that got my attention was the use of cell phones in Africa to increase financial inclusion. I’ve always been interested in economics, on the microeconomic and macroeconomic levels. The work that Women’s World Banking does has an effect on both areas.

What impact do you hope to have as Chief Financial and Administrative Officer at Women’s World Banking? Is there a specific project or area you’re focusing on at the moment?

What I would aspire to in my role here is to bring a perspective that will be an asset to Women’s World Banking in terms of growth and reach, and, along with my colleagues, to take the organization to the next step.

Right now we’re trying to get the budget ready for the next fiscal year, and closing this fiscal year. We’re looking for a new fund manager, and that should be finalized very soon. I’m very excited that this is all happening at the moment when I’m starting. It’s like a crash course, which is very good; it forces me to resolve the learning curve very quickly.

 What are the differences, in your experience, between working in finance and administration at a non-profit versus at a corporate firm?

I would say that there are none in general. It’s still the same amount of work but with different pressures. In the non-profit case, there is a limited amount of resources (more limited than with a for-profit), and you also have more restrictions and people looking at what you do than in a for-profit. It’s not only your board but also your funders–and the requirements might be different for each funder–as well as the government and the general public, who expect you to really fulfill your mission. That kind of mission really does not exist at a for-profit organization.

You were born and raised in Spain, but you’ve now spent a significant amount of time as a New Yorker. What do you value most about each place?

What I miss the most about Spain is the approach that is taken to meals, to sitting down with friends and family to have a great meal with no rush. You can chat and have long conversations, and get up from the table four hours later. It’s like a whole event except that’s just a regular weekend meal, not just something that happens on holidays or special events.

In New York, what I find most exciting is the diversity in food, languages, and cultures. You find it in the office, in the neighborhood, in your own group of friends. It really adds a very interesting perspective and a more comprehensive view of the world both personally and professionally. There are also many cultural events here, such as concerts in the park, art exhibits and films from around the world. My wife and I use them to complement the education of our daughter, who is about to turn 12. (Well, yesterday she was closer to 16 or 17 based on some answers she gave me! But if I look on her birth certificate, she’s actually 12.) We also like to explore the variety of foods around the city. We usually cook Spanish at home, but when we go out we like to try African, Asian, European and all the cuisines all over New York.