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Recent Innovations in Microfinance

March 28, 2018

This was a unique program on recent innovations in microfinance that enable women to access clean energy and water for their homes and businesses. In addition to providing a range of tangible benefits to clients, energy lending is a commercially viable and scalable MFI model. As the microfinance industry continues to evolve with global societies, new models will continue to develop in parallel to provide additional investment paths to economic stability for borrowers, financial returns for investors, and benefits to individuals and our environment as a whole from clean energy and water.

Two recent speakers at the Penn Microfinance Conference, Nicola (Niki) Armacost, Managing Director of Arc Finance, and Brad Swanson, Partner, Developing World Markets, will present an overview of innovations in microfinance lending, provide case examples of energy lending and discuss the journey from strategic ideas through small pilots to mainstream adaptations.

Arc Finance will describe an energy literacy program that WIL recently invested in, as our Andi Broad Bank in India, that helps women provide for their families and make informed choices about solar energy.

About Our Panel

Nicola (Niki) Armacost is the Managing Director of Arc Finance whose mission is to promote and expand access to financing for energy, water and other basic needs to build the income and assets of poor people around the world by linking the fields of finance, energy, water and sanitation. Through its partners Arc has provided over 4 million people with access to clean energy. Before starting Arc in 2008, Niki worked at Women’s World Banking, a global microfinance network for 14 years. Niki is an advisor to a number of companies focused on the off-grid energy space including Simpa Networks, SolarNow, Frontier Markets, Angaza Design, Lumeter, Azuri, EcoZoom and Grameen Greenway. Niki served as the Co-Chair of the Investment and Finance Working Group, of the SE4All Practitioner Network and on the Board of MISFA the donor consortium for microfinance in Afghanistan. Niki is a Trustee of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson in NY, USA.   Arc Finance focuses on a range of financing mechanisms including microfinance, asset finance, remittances and e-commerce, as well as more traditional financing approaches. For more information visit

Brad Swanson is a private equity investor in microfinance and solar energy and a Partner in the impact fund management group, Developing World Markets. He has more than 20 years of experience in international finance, focused on developing countries. Before entering finance, he served as a diplomat, mainly in Africa. He also served in the occupation government in Iraq in 2004 dealing with  private sector reconstruction. He began his career as a newspaper reporter. He lives in northern Virginia.  His career spans finance, diplomacy, and journalism. He has worked in 60+ countries. Brad also writes on political and economic issues, guest lectures at universities and serves on nonprofit boards. His specialties include corporate governance, finance, foreign policy and political analysis.   Developing World Markets (DWM) is at the forefront of a global effort to create investible solutions to meet the social and economic needs of the developing world. DWM structures transactions that provide microfinance institutions and other socially motivated organizations with access to international capital markets. Their aim is to achieve sustainable development through market-level financial returns for our investors and social returns in the developing world. For more information visit,


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