Board of Directors

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Chair

During a 33-year career with Citigroup, Bob managed many of Citibank’s business, country and regional activities while posted in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, India and again in Saudi Arabia.

Since 2000 he has continued to use the business and cultural awareness skills that arise from having lived in or traveled to over 100 countries. He advised a de-novo venture capital fund in the United Arab Emirates and helped set up a new Islamic Bank in Bahrain. He joined the board of the leading investment bank in the Middle East, Cairo based EFG-Hermes where he serves on the Bank’s audit committee. EFG specializes in brokerage and research, private equity, corporate finance, and asset management across the Arab world.

He is currently Chair of the Global Advisory Council at his alma mater, the Thunderbird School of Global Management and is a member of Thunderbird’s Board of Trustees. He also serves as Vice Chair of the board of Give To Colombia, an organization working to improve the lives of the poor in Colombia. Further, he is a member of the board at the National Philanthropic Trust, a Philadelphia based asset management company working with individuals and institutions to manage their philanthropic funding and grant-making. He remains active in Rotary and supports its social development work in various countries.

Bob graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in Economics, from Thunderbird with a degree in International Business Management, and from Harvard’s Executive Program for Management Development.

Vice-Chair

Peter Cowhey is the UC San Diego Dean and Qualcomm Professor of Communications and Technology Policy at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. In 2009 he was on leave from the university to join the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as Senior Counselor for policy planning. His responsibilities included working with Ambassador Kirk on the strategic agenda for trade policy while supervising the work of USTR offices for the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, Market Access and Competitiveness, Intellectual Property, and Services and Investment. 

Cowhey is the former Director of the University of California system's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and head of policy studies for the California Institute on Telecommunications and Information Technology. Cowhey's research has especially focused on the political economy of international trade, investment and regulatory policies. He served as the Senior Counselor to the Chairman and Chief of the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission from 1994 to 1997. During this time the Commission completely revamped its global competition policies and worked intensively with USTR on forging a WTO agreement on basic telecommunications services.

Cowhey's newest book is Transforming Global Information and Communications Markets: The Political Economy of Change (MIT Press, 2009). Cowhey serves on the boards of the Grameen Foundation, the Institute of the Americas, and the California Council on Science and Technology. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Affairs. Cowhey holds a bachelor's degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, and a master's and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Vice Chair

Ricki Tigert Helfer was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1994 to 1997.  In that capacity she served on the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets and on the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision.  She testified for the FDIC before the U.S. Congress nearly thirty times, and she oversaw significant management and governance reforms to the FDIC.

Since then Ms. Helfer has been an independent consultant specializing in financial system reform and regulation in emerging market countries. Most recently she has advised international organizations, such as the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development and nongovernmental organizations, on regulatory issues relating to microfinance institutions.  Ms. Helfer was also a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, focused on the architecture of International Financial Institutions.

Ms. Helfer has been as a member of several corporate boards of directors, including a Governor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange; LifePoint Hospitals, Inc.; and American Express International Bank.

Ricki Helfer has also been a member of a number of nonprofits boards of directors including the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1995 to 2000 and the Citizens Committee for Children of New York City (CCC) from 2005 to the present. Ms. Helfer was a member of the Social Performance Advisory Committee of the Grameen Foundation US from 2006 to 2012.

Ms. Helfer has a J.D. degree with honors from the University of Chicago Law School; an M.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a specialty in international political development; and a B.A. degree from Vanderbilt University.

President and CEO

Alex Counts founded Grameen Foundation and became its President and CEO in 1997, after having worked in microfinance and poverty reduction for 10 years. A Cornell University graduate, Counts’ commitment to poverty eradication deepened as a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh, where he witnessed innovative poverty solutions being developed by Grameen Bank. He trained under Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, and co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Since its modest beginnings, sparked by a $6,000 seed grant provided by Prof. Yunus (who was a founding board member and continues as director emeritus), Grameen Foundation has grown to a leading international humanitarian organization with an annual budget of approximately $25 million.

Counts has propelled Grameen Foundation’s philosophy through his writings, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance Are Changing the World. Counts has also been published in The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Miami Herald, The Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere. In 2007 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Horace Mann School. While at Cornell University, he received the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award, given annually by the Class of 1964 to the graduating senior who is the best example of the ideal of public service articulated by our 35th President.

Counts is a board member, and the immediate past Chair, of Fonkoze USA and co-chairs the Fonkoze Family Coordinating Committee—two governance bodies related to the largest microfinance institution in Haiti. He is also immediate past Chair of Project Enterprise, a New York City microlender, and board member emeritus. He sits on the Advisory Council of the Center for Financial Inclusion, and the Truelift Steering Committee, and serves as Co-Chair of the Microfinance CEO Working Group.

Before leading Grameen Foundation, Counts served as the legislative director of RESULTS and as a regional project manager for CARE-Bangladesh. He speaks Bengali and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Emily, and their cat, Seymour.

Treasurer

Si was CFO for the Grameen Foundation before joining the board in April 2009 bringing over 25 years of management and financial experience to the organization.  He has spent his career in a variety of global financial leadership roles with Ernst & Young, PepsiCo, Nestle and Cisco Systems.  In addition to his passion for Microfinance he has worked for many years using his Spanish language and finance skills to help low income families with their taxes and financial planning.  He also works with environmental issues as a board member of Save the Bay in San Francisco.  Si, a CPA, and a native Californian graduated from California State University, Northridge. He and his wife, Cathy Pendo, have three children.

Director, Emeritus

Recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Muhammad Yunus is internationally recognized for his work in poverty alleviation and the empowerment of poor women. Professor Yunus has successfully melded capitalism with social responsibility to create the Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution committed to providing small amounts of working capital to the poor for self-employment. From its origins as an action-research project in 1976, Grameen Bank has grown to provide collateral-free loans to 7.5 million clients in more than 82,072 villages in Bangladesh and 97% of whom are women. Over the last two decades, Grameen Bank has loaned out over 6.5 billion dollars to the poorest of the poor, while maintaining a repayment rate consistently above 98%. The innovative approach to poverty alleviation pioneered by Professor Yunus in a small village in Bangladesh has inspired a global microcredit movement reaching out to millions of poor women from rural South Africa to inner city Chicago. His autobiography, "Banker to the Poor: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty," has been translated in French, Italian, Spanish, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, Gujarati, Chinese, German, Turkish and Arabic.

Ms. Armstrong is the Chief Financial Officer at the Atlantic Council, a Washington based international think tank organization. Previously, she served as the Interim Controller at PBS and is an acknowledged industry expert in non-profit accounting, administration and grants & contracts compliance.
   
Before her service at PBS, Ms. Armstrong worked for more than 30 years in executive positions with many non-profit institutions, including International Relief & Development (IRD), Pathfinder International, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Pacific/Asian American Mental Health Research Center, Metropolitan Planning Council, American Cultural Center of Baghdad, and the American Bar Association. In addition, Ms. Armstrong spent several years as Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for the Metropolitan Planning Council, Friends of the Parks, Corporation for Open Lands, Open Lands Project, Upper Illinois Valley Association and Wetlands Research Institute.
 
Ms. Armstrong earned a Master’s degree in Accountancy from DePaul University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago. She is also a Certified Public Accountant. Ms. Armstrong has a strong affinity for microfinance and the Grameen family of companies. While serving as CFO of Pathfinder International, the organization received a grant from GrameenPhone to expand health programming in rural areas. She lives in Arlington, VA, with her husband James (a Mesopotamian archaeologist) and their two daughters.

Peter most recently served as Executive Vice President of Programs and Regions at Grameen Foundation, and was Founding Director of the Grameen Foundation Technology Center. Under his leadership, the Technology Center led the microfinance industry in driving relevant and appropriate technology innovation, creating information and communications initiatives that continue to benefit the world's poorest.

Peter was a founding member of the MTN-Village Phone board, the first public-private partnership to extend telecommunications access to the rural poor. He is a frequent speaker at international telecommunications and microfinance conferences, and is an executive board member of the International Telecommunications Union Connect the World initiative. Peter is also actively involved with various Seattle-based non-profits, including Global Partnerships and Social Venture Partners. Before joining Grameen Foundation, Peter worked for Microsoft for more than 10 years, managing various projects and departments during his tenure. He has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Carlos Fonseca recently joined The Coca Cola Co. as Global Vice-president for Knowledge and Insights.

Previously for seven years, he was the Marketing SVP/ Group Head for Strategy, Planning and Analytics at MasterCard Worldwide. His experience before MasterCard includes brand management, insights and financial analysis positions working for financial services and FMCG companies, including Procter & Gamble, BAT and Citigroup.
 
Through his career, he has built a balanced background in marketing and finance, developing the ability to manage and motivate cross-functional teams in projects ranging from the M&A of a credit card’s portfolio to the semiotic analysis and testing of an advertising campaign. Carlos’ early exposure to emerging markets with assignments in Brazil, India, Venezuela, Argentina and Russia, among others, fueled his interest in understanding developmental economics and in gaining hands-on experience in launching and growing businesses in such environments. He is also is very interested in the role that new technologies and media play in changing consumer behaviors, particularly in the area of payments and in its applications to promote financial inclusion and community empowerment.
 
He is a graduate in Industrial Engineering from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, with postgraduate studies at Georgetown University and Insead.

Vikram Gandhi is Founder and CEO of VSG Capital Advisors. The Firm focuses on strategic, financial, and investment advisory services both in the private and social sectors. Vikram and VSG Capital Advisors have been retained by The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board as Senior Advisors to provide strategic advice and develop and facilitate investment opportunities in the Indian sub-continent. Vikram is also a Senior Advisor to Greenhill & Co., Inc., a leading independent investment bank. VSG Capital Advisors is based in New Delhi with operations in Hong Kong, New York, and London.

Prior to forming VSG Capital Advisors, Vikram was Vice Chairman of Investment Banking and Global Head of Financial Institutions Business for Credit Suisse, in New York and Hong Kong. He was a member of Credit Suisse's Global Investment Banking Management Committee and the Fixed Income Operating Committee. Prior to his tenure at Credit Suisse, Vikram worked at Morgan Stanley, where he was Co-Head of Global FIG in New York; his prior work at Morgan Stanley included heading the Firm's institutional strategy area, its Global E-commerce Committee, and as Country Head and President of Morgan Stanley India.

Vikram is a Member of the Board of The Grameen Foundation, which focuses on alleviating poverty across the world through microfinance and technology. He is a Founding Member of Harvard University’s South Asia Initiative, a collaborative effort between the College and Harvard’s graduate schools targeting important issues in South Asia. He is also co-founder of the Giving Back Foundation, which supports charities around the world focusing on women and children’s causes. As part of the focus areas of VSG Capital Advisors, Vikram is assisting, on a voluntary basis, in the launch of the recently announced $1 billion “India Inclusive Innovation Fund” that will fund enterprises that are sustainable and create innovative products and services for the 500 million people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Vikram holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School where he was designated a Baker Scholar, and a B.Com with high distinction from the University of Mumbai. He is also a qualified Chartered Accountant. He is an avid golfer and is married with three children. Vikram divides his time between New Delhi, Hong Kong, London & New York.

Jim Greenberg brings to Grameen Foundation a passion for microfinance, defeating poverty on a massive scale and a focus on India and the Middle East/North Africa.  He currently serves on Grameen Foundation's Board of Directors, is the founding Chairman of Grameen Capital India, is on the Board of Directors of Grameen Jameel Microfinance Ltd., and is the Co-Chairman of the Grameen Foundation Investment Committee.   Not only has Grameen Foundation benefited from Jim's valuable knowledge, seasoned insight and strategic direction, but he and his wife also helped to launch the India Initiative.

Jim has a rich executive and management background in international business.  In 1995 he became the founding partner of DevCorp International B.S.C. (c), a Bahrain-based venture development and investment company with active projects spanning shrimp farming, petrochemicals, light manufacturing, and telecomm/IT.  Jim is currently Chairman and CEO of the company.

Mr. Paul C. Hilal is a Partner at Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. He joined the firm in 2006. From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Hilal was the Managing Partner of Caliber Capital Management, LP. From 1998 to 2001, he ran the information technology sector investment program at Hilal Capital Management. From 1992 to 1997, he was a Principal at Broadview Associates, providing mergers and acquisitions advisory services to information technology companies. Mr. Hilal joined the Board of Directors of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP; TSX:CP) in 2012. Mr. Hilal served as a director of Ceridian Corporation (NYSE:CEN) in 2007, prior to its sale to the Thomas H Lee Company. From 1999 to 2000, he served as the Chairman of the Board and Interim Chief Executive Officer of Worldtalk Communications Corporation (Nasdaq:WTLK). He is a member of the Board of the Grameen Foundation, an umbrella organization that helps microfinance institutions around the world enable the poor to become financially self-sufficient through micro-lending. Mr. Hilal received an A.B. degree in Biochemistry from Harvard College in 1988, a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Columbia University School of Business in 1992.

During his 30-year career as a technical executive, Nelson was Google’s Vice-President for Europe and Emerging Markets, an IBM Distinguished Engineer and Vice-President for Information and User Technologies, as well as a Professor at the University of Kaiserslautern.
 
During his tenure at Google, he grew the engineering presence in Europe from 300 to more than 3000 engineers, and his team made major contributions to many Google projects including: Google Chrome; Android and Mobile products; Google+ Hangouts; privacy; child protection extensions to Search; YouTube copyright protection tools; Transit and other Google Maps features; Google Calendar; Priority Inbox for Gmail, and many more. Nelson also spearheaded Google’s efforts to bring cultural content online through the Paris-based Google’s Cultural Institute and Google’s drive to increase Internet adoption in emerging markets. Nelson has always been very passionate about making the Internet an integral part of the daily life of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East who cannot yet benefit from the use of this technology.
 
At IBM, Nelson created the new Information Integration business unit for the company driving new products to market and executing five key acquisitions worth over billions of dollars.  Nelson's career with IBM also included key roles in database development, leading major language extensions, and driving worldwide database standards; in this capacity, he contributed to the design of the SQL 1999 international standard through more than 300 accepted proposals.

Before his time with IBM, Nelson was an associate professor at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, where he was involved in research on object-oriented and knowledge base management systems.

Currently, Nelson is an independent consultant, an active member of a few executive boards, as well as of a few research forums, authors a column for a large newspaper in Brazil, and gives lectures.  He leverages his technical and cultural skills obtained by having lived in multiple continents and travelled extensively across the globe to help organizations create technical solutions that will have a positive impact particularly in Emerging Markets.
 
Nelson received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Kaiserslautern and holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Computer Science from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. He has published more than 80 papers on database management and related topics, holds 13 patents, and is the author of An Approach to Knowledge Base Management. 

Rosanna Ramos Velita is Chairman of the Board of Caja Rural Los Andes, a microfinance bank serving rural entrepreneurs in the Andean regions of Peru.

Ms. Ramos Velita led a group of investors to acquire Caja Los Andes with the objective of developing a leading rural bank in Peru.  She brings to this venture passion and commitment to microfinance coupled with significant experience in international finance, technology and entrepreurship.

She has held senior positions at Citigroup, where she was CFO of Global Marketing and Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Global Consumer Group, Citigroup’s largest business worldwide.  Prior to Citigroup, she started a company which focused on providing financial services to the US Hispanic community.  As Investment Banker at Bankers Trust and UBS, she led and participated in key Latin American M&A and capital market transactions. She started her career as a designer of microcircuits at AT&T Microelectronics.

Ms. Ramos Velita is a Member of the Board of Grameen Foundation where she is currently Chairman of the Latin American Council and has served and Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee.  She is a Member of the Wharton Executive Board for Latin America and a Member of the Board of Enseña Perú, the Peruvian chapter of Teach for America.

Ms. Ramos Velita holds an MBA from the Wharton School and an MA in International Business from The Joseph H. Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.  She received an MS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of North Dakota.

Elisabeth Rhyne has devoted much of her career to microfinance. She is now managing director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, a research and action center for collaboration on challenges confronting the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors. At the Center, she co-founded and now oversees the Smart Campaign, a global effort to embed client protection principles and practices throughout the microfinance industry.

As senior vice president of ACCION International from 2000-2008, Ms. Rhyne led ACCION’s initial entry into Africa and India, directed research efforts to develop new financial products and managed ACCION’s publications and educational activities.

Ms. Rhyne has published numerous articles and books onmicrofinance, including Microfinance for Bankers and Investors(McGraw-Hill, 2009) and Mainstreaming Microfinance(Kumarian Press, 2001). She co-edited The New World of Microenterprise Finance, which provided the introduction to microfinance for many of the field’s current professionals. 

Ms. Rhyne was director of the Office of Microenterprise Development at the U.S. Agency for International Developmentfrom 1994 to 1998; while there she led the Agency’s Microenterprise Initiative.  She lived eight years in Kenya (with USAID) and Mozambique (as an independent consultant),working on microfinance policy and operations for governments, international organizations and microfinance institutions as well as on a range of private sector development programs.

She has taught at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Boulder Institute of Microfinance. Ms. Rhyne holds a master's and Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and a bachelor's degree in history and humanities from Stanford University.

David H. Russell was the Founder, CEO and President of Dalcomp, Inc. which served NYC based banks and stock brokerage firms. Dalcomp provided computer software and telecommunications services for automating syndications of new securities issued. The company was sold to Thompson Financial Service in January 1995. David is now involved with gold mining in Chile and Oregon and energy resources. He is also developing new technologies to recover gas, oil and coal within the US.

For the past 15 years David has dedicated himself to helping the lowest income people worldwide take their first steps out of poverty by providing seed capital to entrepreneurs sothat they may launch their own microenterprise. David is a member of Grameen Foundation's Social Performance Advisory Committee.

David H. Russell was educated at Emory University and New York University Business School. He has served on several corporate and non-profit boards.

A technology veteran and serial entrepreneur, Pradeep founded Aditi Technologies, an IT Services company, in 1994 and served as CEO from 1994-2000 and 2003-2010.  He now serves as Executive Chairman of the company. He founded Pengala, an educational solutions company in 2009 and serves as its Co-Chairman today.

In the period 1999-2003, Pradeep founded and ran Talisma as CEO, one of India’s first venture funded software product companies, in the Customer Relationship Management space.  Talisma was sold in 2005 to nGerra.

Prior to founding Aditi, Pradeep held several management positions at Microsoft, including General Manager of the Windows 95 Mobile Services, Office Excel and Encarta groups (1986-1994).  Prior to Microsoft, Pradeep had a brief stint an McKinsey in Copenhagen (1983), Texas Instruments in Dallas (1984-85) and Mannai Trading Company in Doha (1980-82).

Pradeep has been honored with IIT Delhi’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award and has been recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Pradeep holds an MBA from Harvard University (1984), and a B.Tech Electrical Engineering degree from IIT, Delhi (1979). 

Eleanor Wagner spent her career with Citigroup, lastly as Chief Risk Officer for Citi’s investment banking and capital markets businesses in Asia, where she oversaw all risk-taking activities in the 16 countries that comprise the region. She was also a member of the Citi’s Asia Pacific Management Committee. Prior assignments included Managing Director in risk management, derivatives, structured finance and energy banking.  In addition to her work with Grameen Foundation, Eleanor serves on the board of JASA, a New York-based social services agency servicing the aged, and is on the Leadership Council of the Athena Leadership Center at her alma mater, Barnard College, where she initiated a mentoring program. Eleanor holds a BA from Barnard College and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She has also practiced as CPA in New York State.

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