Thea Anderson

Podcast Interview

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What do you do?

I am the Senior Advisor at Mercy Corps focused on building and strengthening our inclusive finance portfolio. What that means is that I support our country teams to design and scale financial models and products that focus on those that are currently unbanked or underbanked. We focus on private-sector partnerships using innovative financial products and delivery platforms.

What is the best part about your job?

There are many exciting parts of my job but overall, the most rewarding is the opportunity to tackle barriers to finance in some of the most challenging places on earth. Mercy Corps works in 40 countries primarily in complex and fragile environments.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Countries with the highest poverty rates tend to have the weakest financial and mobile money infrastructure. It can be very challenging working in these contexts especially when there are weak or overly bureaucratic regulations around know your customer (KYC), ID requirements, and types of financial products or payment platforms.

How have you overcome these challenges?

While these are challenges, I find we can be successful when we take a systemic approach and engage with and understand the incentives of all the players including regulators, financial service providers, and most importantly the clients themselves. INGOs like Mercy Corps offer valuable insight about client populations to governments, multinational corporations and technology firms that don’t have first-hand knowledge of field realities and needs. In complex and fragile states, development actors like Mercy Corps can play a critical partnership role by mitigating risks for other actors.

If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?

Get out there and actually work with and for financial institutions overseas or in your own country. When you really understand the incentives required by all parties you can be most effective.

Finally, what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?

The BFP community provides a platform to engage with like-minded organisations and private sector actors that proactively want to decrease poverty around the world, especially in complex and conflict-impacted countries

Editor’s Note:

Thank you to Thea Anderson for taking the time to do this interview.

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