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Board of Directors

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.

Vice-Chair

Ben Cutler has spent 47 years in the financial services industry. He served as CEO of a number of companies including Coastal States, Sun Insurance Services, Fortis Life, Fortis Health, and USHEALTH Group. He has been actively involved in a number of industry associations and served as vice-chair and chair of the Health Insurance Association of America and Americas Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), where he was heavily involved in forming AHIP in 2002. He also served on several other boards including the Medical Information Bureau, the Wellness Councils of America, the Georgia Guaranty Association, Freedom from Hunger, and the Life Insurance Council of New York.

In addition to serving on the Grameen Foundation Board, he is on the boards of the Bank of Montreal Wealth Management, and USHEALTH Group where he also serves as board chair. Cutler graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in economics, and from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his MBA. He has four children and eight grandchildren, and lives with his wife, Rebecca, in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.