The microfinance not-for-profit focuses mainly on helping women in developing countries to build businesses in order to earn regular incomes. Ninety five per cent of their 5.5 million borrowers are female, and the portfolio boasts a 98% repayment rate.
Meredith is a former senior partner at Ernst & Young, having spent 32 years in the audit sector, while Joanna is the managing director of Business Lending at the Commonwealth Bank, and has been on the Opportunity board for the past 7 years.
Meredith told Women’s Agenda that moving from an organisation that employs almost 250,000 people globally to one with 36 people and a less formal association with other ‘sister’ Opportunity organisations around the world, that the huge difference is ensuring she’s across all activities.
“There’s no longer the possibility of relying on a large support network,” she said. As a result, I’m involved in marketing, communications, fundraising and strategy.
“But of course, the big difference is the tremendous satisfaction from now coming to work each day to end poverty, not sign audit opinions.”
Meredith added that Opportunity’s financial model is unique in Australian philanthropy.
“Opportunity uses a leverage model to access capital markets in developing markets,” she says. “This multiplies the impact of every donation, enabling
Opportunity to provide more small loans to families to use to build businesses, earn regular incomes and journey out of poverty.”
She said that when the loans are repaid, they are recycled and lent to other families, increasing the impact Opportunity can make on alleviating poverty in the developing world. “We don’t just fight poverty, our goal is to end it.
1.7 billion adults globally continue to be ‘unbanked’ according to recent research by the World Bank, with more women than men continuing to have no access to even the most basic of financial services.
Pic above: L-R: Joanna White and Meredith Scott, with Opportunity’s founder David Bussau pictured in the background.