Ethonomics And Microfinance Go Hand In Hand

There has been a lot of positive feedback on my string of blogs themed "financial firms doing good." It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity that pours out of our televisions and newspapers, but as I travel across the globe, I continually run into people doing extraordinary things. I meet individuals who are dedicated and passionate about their missions.

To be positive is to be open. And although our world faces difficult times, we must understand that innovation has always been a process of death making way for new life.

There is no reason to expect the financial system would behave differently. As the old financial system crumbles, a new class of financial innovators is rising from the rubble. Like their predecessors, they understand the complex intangibilities of money. But now they use their mastery not for short-term personal gain, but to realize more expansive visions.

One example of this is Minlam Asset Management, a unique firm operating at the edge of New York’s SoHo area and at the edge the developing market finance.

When Mike Hokenson decided to take time off from college, he forwent the usual lures of lazy beaches or busy streets and instead headed to Nepal. There he submerged himself in the heart of Buddhism. Sitting at the other side of the world gave him an uncommon vista of the entire world.

Mike returned to the states, and after an entrepreneurial experiment selling Tibetan handcrafts in the US, he went to business school where he studied under one of the leading ethonomics thinkers, C.K. Pralahad, and wrote the microfinance case stufy for Prahalad's book "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits."

After graduation, Mike and two partners, Jacob Haar and Michael Parker, launched Minlam Asset Management, an asset management firm that specializes in providing debt capital to microfinance institutions that are lending small amounts of money to low-income people and thereby dislodging them from the trap of poverty.

Minlam has already signed some the world’s top financial firms as investors and placed about $50 million in investments. How Mike and his partner have spurred such impressive early results offers us at least four lessons for how you can do well by doing good. I will share those over the next several days, and will hopefully challenge you to come up with new policies, procedures and strategies that will help you achieve a higher level of conscious capitalism.

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  • Kevin Ohannessian

    I agree: the overlap between ethics, networking, and economics is definitely leading capitalism into a better place. Perhaps one policy change could be to let micro-lending contributions count as tax-deductible donations.
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