Julie Earne, MBA/MPH 04

Investment Officer
International Finance Corp., World Bank Group
Nairobi, Kenya

When Julie Earne, MBA/MPH 04, received The Microfinance Handbook ten years ago, the concept of micro loans for the world's poorest people seemed a universe away from her life in commercial banking. Yet the book changed her life. Ten years later, she's contributing to the book's second edition; the author, a global expert in microfinance, has become her close friend and mentor; and she's travelled across Africa, setting up pioneering microfinance banks.

 

"I'd been working in corporate finance for global banks when this book about microfinance landed in my lap," Earne says. "From what I read, it was banking with more of a soul. I thought, it doesn't matter if it's a large bank or a small bank, the skills you need are exactly the same."

 

Cue a swift resignation from Wall Street and a post in Uganda working as finance manager for a network of microfinance institutions in Africa. She developed an interest in public health as nearly one in three Ugandans became infected with HIV/AIDS. Her employer was also piloting a micro health insurance scheme, and Earne saw microfinance and health working hand in hand.

 

It was Berkeley's joint MBA/MPH program that prompted Earne to return to the States. That and a desire to hang up her travelling boots and immerse herself in the vibrant melee of international students, networking opportunities, and entrepreneurial spirit that she says defined her time at Haas.

 

After graduating, Earne started working as an investment officer for the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank. "I bought a house in Washington, D.C., and thought this would be a nice place to settle down," she says. But a year later, she found herself on a plane to South Africa—this time to head a new microfinance investment strategy for IFC focusing on the most frontier countries in Africa. In this role, she invests in startup microfinance banks, expanding access to the formal financial sector for micro and small entrepreneurs.


The opportunities that microfinance offers, particularly to women in Africa, continually inspire her. "Through these new banks, many women have access to secure savings and credit for the first time, enabling them to take control of their lives," says Earne. "Their businesses grow and the results are tangible— better living conditions and an ability to send their children to school."

– Victoria Averill



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