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Board of Directors

Co-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 and 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 serves on the Board audit committee of the leading investment bank in the Middle East, Cairo based EFG- Hermes. EFG specializes in brokerage and research, private equity, corporate finance, and asset management across the Arab world. 

He recently Chaired the Executive Leadership Council at his alma mater, the Thunderbird School of Global Management and was a member of Thunderbird's Board of Trustees.  He also recently served as Vice Chair of the board of Give To Colombia which works to improve the lives of the poor in Colombia.  Further, he is currently a member of the board of the National Philanthropic Trust, a US based asset management company that manages global philanthropic funding and grant-making for individuals, foundations and institutions.  He also supports the social development work of Rotary International in a number of 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.

Co-Chair

Marianne Udow-Phillips served on the board of Freedom from Hunger from 2004 to October 2016.  

She is director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) at the University of Michigan. CHRT is a non-profit partnership of the University of Michigan (U-M) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to promote evidence-based care delivery, improve population health, and expand access to care. From 2004 through 2007, Marianne was director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, appointed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. Marianne came to state service from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where she served in leadership roles for over 20 years, most recently as senior vice president of Health Care Products and Provider Services. 

She holds a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration from the U-M School of Public Health; she is a lecturer at the U-M School of Public Health. She serves on numerous boards and commissions.

Co-Vice Chair

Peter Cowhey is the UC San Diego Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. He also holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Communications and Technology Policy and has served as the dean of the School of Global Policy and Strategy for twelve years. He is a leading expert on the future of communications and information technology markets and policy, specializing in United States trade policy, foreign policy, the Internet, international corporate strategy and the microfinance industry to alleviate poverty.

Cowhey currently serves on a bi-national experts group appointed by the U.S. and Chinese governments to research and guide innovation policy. In 2008, he headed the transition team on trade policy for President Obama and then served a 12-month assignment as the senior counselor to Ambassador Ron Kirk in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, playing a key role in the strategic agenda for trade policy. In the Clinton Administration he was chief of international policy for the Federal Communications Commission. His newest book—Digital DNA: Disruption and Global Governance with Jonathan Aronson—will be published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

Co-Vice Chair

Mr. Thomas was a Trustee of Freedom from Hunger from 2005 to 2016 and was Chair of the Freedom from Hunger Board from 2007 to 2011. He served the organization as a spokesperson and networker, contributing his business expertise and strategic advice. 

Mr. Thomas is Chairman of the Board of Stemlab-Crioestáminal, a biotechnology company based in Cantanhede, Portugal, engaged in the preservation of stem cells to treat future critical diseases in children. 

From 2000-2015, he also served as President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of The Trustmark Companies, a nationwide insurance company based in Lake Forest, IL. Mr. Thomas currently serves on the Board of Directors at USHEALTH Group Inc., a Ft. Worth based insurance company. He has more than 40 years of experience in the financial services industry, particularly the insurance industry, in which he has held a variety of executive and leadership positions,.

Mr. Thomas served as a Trustee of the Georgia State University Foundation for 9 years and six years as a Trustee of the Actuarial Foundation. Mr. Thomas holds a Bachelor Degree from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, and an MBA from Georgia State University. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Cathy. They have three children and four grandchildren.

Treasurer

Eleanor Wagner spent her career with Citigroup, lastly as Chief Risk Officer for Citi’s investment banking and capital markets business in Asia where she oversaw all risk-taking activities in the 16 countries that comprise the region. She was also a member of 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.

Secretary

William Robinson served on the Freedom From Hunger Board from 2009 to October 2016. He is a highly accomplished insurance and financial services executive with extensive management experience in the life and health insurance industry and demonstrated ability managing turnaround and rapid-growth opportunities. 

From 1985-2006, Robinson served in a variety of senior executive position with Assurant Inc.   Assurant develops, underwrites and markets specialty insurance, service contracts and other risk management solutions in collaboration with leading financial institutions. In his most recent position, he served as Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, during which annual sales increased from $160 million to $500. During his tenure with Assurant, Robinson served as President and CEO of Fortis Long Term Care (a subsidiary of Assurant), building the business from a product line to start up and eventually to become the fourth largest player in the long term care industry. He successfully managed the acquisition of Fortis Long Term Care by John Hancock. William Robinson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University and a Masters of Business Administration from Georgia State University. 

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.

Carlos Fonseca is Senior Vice President of Marketing Science at MetLife.

Previously he was Global Vice-President for Knowledge and Insights at The Coca Cola Co. 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.

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.

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). 

Zubyr Soomro retired as CEO for Citibank in Pakistan in 2008. He holds 31 years of international banking experience of which 28 years were at Citibank with assignments in various countries. He also worked in Jordan as Regional Head for Iraq, Syria and Jordan; in Saudi Arabia as Head for Contracting and Construction Financing for Citibank’s affiliate, SAMBA; in Turkey as Chief Executive of SAMBA; and in UK, initially as Head for Middle East Africa (UK) and thereafter Emerging Markets (UK) for Citibank’s wealth management business. Mr. Soomro sits on various advisory boards including Acumen in Pakistan.  He holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics, and a Master in South Asian Studies, School of Oriental and African studies, London University.

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.