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Microfinance Now: Bob Christen

Imagine life without financial services, says Bob Christen, President and CEO of the Boulder Microfinance Institute in this interview: “How would you do anything?” Christen talks about how a microcredit narrative that has focused solely on poverty alleviation misses the “most profound impact” of financial services on the lives of the poor. Finance in our own lives, says Christen, “is not about earning more money. It’s about administering our own life goals, which are far more efficiently organized by good financial services.” Christen discusses the shift within the microfinance community to look more closely at poor clients’ needs and uses of finance, and to explore how financial services can really add value to the ways in which they manage their money. He distinguishes between a family’s financial desires and goals—which tend to be fairly universal—and the different ways in which families earn money, which demands different products and product features. “It’s time to become much more sophisticated in our understanding of people and their financial lives,” says Christen.

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