Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Taking Microfinance to the Next Level

The aim of outfits such as BlueOrchard to serve those below the poverty line is both a philanthropic and profitable endeavor

Thanks in part to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2006 to Mohammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of Grameen Bank, there has been a surge of interest in recent years in microfinance, a tool Yunus helped pioneer. Made especially to poor people in emerging economies, these small business loans, averaging about $345, play a vital role in lifting millions of people out of poverty.

Yunus was far from the only devotee of microfinance, though. In 2001 a pair of Europeans, Jean-Philippe de Schrevel and Cédric Lombard, discovered they shared a mutual conviction that the best way to cure poverty is through the capital markets. So they began lending money to microfinance institutions through a Geneva vehicle called BlueOrchard. Belgian de Schrevel, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, got his MBA at Wharton, while Lombard hails from one of the families behind Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, among Switzerland's oldest private banks. (Lombard is no longer involved with BlueOrchard, but has founded a Geneva company called Symbiotics that provides consulting and services to the microfinance industry.)