Sunday, April 02, 2006

Beijing Inspiration

I have finally got back from Beijing and had a couple of meetings with Gabrielle Harris, the Executive Director of Planet Finance-China. Before turning up at the capital, I had little ideas of how this shall progress, all I know is I wanted to work on something meaningful for my lives and the I need to keep on exploring opportunites. My expectation was by meeting this organisation, it will lead to a job with them or some other organisations related to Microfinance eventually. Though deep down I always know that the salary an NGO can afford will be a hurdle that I properly cannot overcome.

Our first meeting took place over lunch in a English book club-restaurant called 'Book Worm'. Rightaway, Gabrielle pass me lots of contacts collected from the recent "Asia Microfinance Forum", ranging from commercial banks, investment banks and established large microfinance institutions in asia. It was like she was trying to persuade me to look else where, which was kind of strange. Couple of days later, we visited their office and meet the crew of PF China, who were very interesting people to speak to. The chief manager Mr Gao has set up one of the most successful MF operation in China, others are also working on some interesting projects. Though I can see little of my banking experience that can be applied directly to their operations.

It was at the final chat with Gabrielle that things fall in place for me. Bascially, she reckoned the tour de force of MF in future are the commercial banks. I can join an NGO like Planet Finance but with limited funding at the moment, the impact will be modest. The days will come when medium size banks in China will downsize their operation to enter the MF market and work with establish NGOs with track record of poverty alleviation, that is where she see MF will become a great poverty alleviation tools. Hence working in an international bank right now, I am at good poisition to shape the future of MF in China.

This has been quite a revelation for me. So instead of giving up my job and be exiled to the NGO world, the next stage of this 'project dream life' will be to work within Standard Chartered to promote microfinance and get the training I need. Failing that, there are plenty other banks who have shown more sincereity in supporting the development of MF.
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