Unitus, Inc. Announces Dr. Brigit Helms as Chief Executive Officer

October 27, 2009 Posted by Press Release

Unitus, Inc. Announces Dr. Brigit Helms as Chief Executive Officer.

New leader brings expertise, urgency to organization working to empower the world’s poor through microfinance

SEATTLE, 27 OCTOBER 2009 – International nonprofit Unitus, Inc. proudly announces their new Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Brigit Helms, whose career has been defined by trailblazing work to achieve poverty alleviation through the growth of microfinance.

“All of Unitus is thrilled to welcome Brigit and profit from her incredible depth of experience in microfinance,” said Unitus Board Chairman Joseph Grenny. “In her 25 years of work, she has been a pioneer in developing innovative private-sector solutions to address the severe global problems of financial exclusion and poverty.”

Helms comes to Unitus from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Jakarta, where she was the head of Advisory Services. She was responsible for developing an aggressive five-year country strategy to help 40 million Indonesians by facilitating $15 billion in investments. Immediately prior to joining the IFC, she spent 10 years with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) as a member of the organization’s management team.

She joins Unitus at a time when the field of microfinance faces some of its greatest challenges—and greatest opportunities.

“The challenge now is to explosively scale and increase access to the millions in need,” Helms said, citing the need for a new generation of bold and creative microfinance organizations ready to take the necessary risks to see basic financial services be accessible to the large numbers of people still living in poverty.

“Of all the organizations working in microfinance today, Unitus is the one I believe is uniquely well placed to achieve this ambitious goal,” she continued. “The diversity of backgrounds among the senior team allows Unitus to view longstanding development issues through a completely different lens.”

Included in the senior team will be Ed Bland, who will continue to serve as Unitus’s President and COO.

“The combination of Ed’s substantial private-sector experience and Brigit’s deep industry and strategic development acumen will enable Unitus to accelerate financial services to the millions still in need—faster and better than ever before,” commented Grenny.

“Brigit’s philosophies on microfinance mirror our own mission and approach to poverty’s most intractable problems,” added Bland. “We feel there is an entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit in our organizational DNA, and Brigit shares those instincts, making her a great fit.”

In addition to her work with the IFC and CGAP, Brigit has spent time with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce. She is also the author of the book Access for All: Building Inclusive Financial Systems. She earned a Ph.D. in Development and Agricultural Economics from Stanford University, as well as master’s degrees from Stanford and Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. A Seattle native, Brigit will be joined in her homecoming by her husband and two children.

About Unitus

Unitus, an international nonprofit organization, fights global poverty by accelerating the growth of microfinance—small loans and other financial tools for self-empowerment—where it is needed most. Unitus partners with young, high-potential microfinance institutions, helping them build capacity, attract capital, and unite with the greater partner network to achieve rapid, sustainable growth. In just seven years, Unitus has helped its partners serve more than 9 million families throughout India and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Mexico, and South America.

Unitus received Fast Company’s Social Capitalist award in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Unitus is a 501(c)3 with offices in Seattle, Washington, Bangalore, India, and Nairobi, Kenya.