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"Financial inclusion is a channel that helps get people into the financial mainstream, connecting them with opportunity"

Jul 12, 2012

Being one of the leaders in the electronic money market, for MasterCard, financial inclusion through entrepreneurship is the best way to help the under-privileged. Patricia Devereux, Group Head, Corporate Philanthropy and Citizenship for MasterCard Worldwide, talks to OneWorld South Asia about MasterCard's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and philosophy.

OneWorld South Asia: In your opinion, how do you think companies can contribute more to the Development agenda?

Patricia Devereux: There are many ways that companies can contribute to the Development agenda and it is not just through financial contributions. Companies should consider leveraging all of their assets including their expertise, networks (business relationships), technology, and the time and skills of their employees to make an impact.

OWSA: The economic climate is particularly harsh now; how do the current hostile economic conditions impact MasterCard’s CSR implementation in South Asia?

devereux_pat.jpgPD: No doubt, we are living in challenging economic times. At MasterCard we focus our philanthropy on furthering financial inclusion through entrepreneurship supporting many organisations around the world to give people of all ages the skills and resources to help them build a better future. It centers on empowerment and takes shape in financial and business education programs, and in programs that help create and grow new and existing businesses by providing access to capital, technology, training and mentors. We think, given the current economic climate, that it’s more important than ever to continue our work. Our employees are also especially committed to making a difference in our communities. From July 4 to 6, 2012, for example, 11 employees from MasterCard’s Singapore office, and their families, are travelling to Cambodia to teach skills in conjunction with Mekong Bamboo. Mekong Bamboo is working with approximately 1,500 households in three different provinces in Lao PDR and Cambodia.

OWSA: According to you, can there be a universal, ideal CSR philosophy for companies across the board?

PD: We are experts at making electronic payments happen around the world, so it makes sense that our philanthropic focus is on financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is a powerful channel that helps get people into the financial mainstream, connecting them with opportunity, and having a positive ripple effect in families and throughout communities. That said, I think each company should look at what it does well, and use that as a guide for how to make an impact.

OWSA: How would you explain MasterCard’s vision and mission as to its CSR philosophy?

PD: MasterCard’s vision is a World Beyond Cash. And our mission is to use our technology to make payments safe, simple and smart, every day. Cash is unsecure and potentially unsafe. For millions of people who don’t have access to secure banking, their livelihoods depend on their ability to protect their cash. But once it’s gone, through theft, fire or other natural disaster, it’s gone. With electronic money, not only is it all traceable and recoverable, it can be “stored” in a virtual bank. Payments are made with a cell phone. In that way, people who live in very rural and traditionally under-served parts of the world can join the financial mainstream today and save for the future.  

OWSA: According to you, which would you call MasterCard’s flagship programs in terms of their success in South Asia?

PD: Our relationship with SEWA (Self-employed Women’s Association) is something we’re quite proud of.  Based in India, SEWA helps women secure employment opportunities, which allows them to be more independent and self-reliant. In March of this year, we extended our financial support to the organisation, money which will help set up the 7th Rural Urban Development Initiative Processing Center. The proposed center will benefit approximately 2000 farmers and 400 SEWA members. I think that program really encapsulates what we’re trying to do – couple financial literacy with entrepreneurial skills so that more people, especially a group that is traditionally under-served, like women, can join the financial mainstream.

OWSA: MasterCard has a lot of programmes working in the area of microfinance. The Microfinance sector has faced quite a bit of criticism in the recent times; what are your thoughts on this sector in that sense?

PD: Providing people access to financial services has been proven to alleviate poverty. It gives people the ability to manage the risk and uncertainty in their lives through myriad of services such as savings, insurance and credit. Additionally, microfinance has been proven to raise incomes and productivity. When coupled with technology, microfinance has the potential to make an even greater impact. But we believe that microfinance without financial and business skills is less likely to help the world’s poor. That’s why we put such an emphasis on teaching skills that can be used for financial gain – people feel better about themselves when they can contribute to financial health and wellbeing of their families and communities..

OWSA: MasterCard has programmes all over the globe. How would you compare your experience working in India for instance, with any other part of the world? 

PD: I think the difference in India is the sheer size of the country and the need. International Youth Foundation, one of our partners in the region, estimates that up to 12 million young people enter the labor market each year. But in the same time period, the Indian economy only creates about one million new jobs in the formal sector. Young Entrepreneurs, which we launched in March with IYF and the Community Collective Society for Integrated Development, responds directly to underemployment. The two year initiative will provide 700 youth ages 15 to 29 with support to launch or grow their own small enterprises. 

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