News & Highlights What’s Happening 2010 Ambassador Spotlight: Asad Mahmood, Managing Director, Deutsche Bank Global Social Investment Funds

Ambassador Spotlight: Asad Mahmood, Managing Director, Deutsche Bank Global Social Investment Funds

Asad Mahmood is the managing director for Deutsche Bank’s Global social investment funds. An early supporter of the Campaign, he describes how the rationale and ultimate success of client protection lies in the balance between social and profit-making objectives….

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The Smart Campaign: Why did you endorse The Smart Campaign?

Asad Mahmood: Client protection, for me, is a fundamental part of customer service. Customer service makes good business sense, and so does ethical treatment of clients because it’s really just the same idea. Many players in the industry are only interested in profit maximization and I see a real danger in that. When profit is the only focus and institutions target poor consumers who, although just as smart as you and I, are less sophisticated and really need the money, a power imbalance arises which could ultimately lead to abuse.

Given this outlook, the launch of the Campaign was very timely for us. Deutsche Bank was actually the first investor to support it because we felt that The Smart Campaign was essential to where we are headed. Our fund doesn’t have a lot of grant money but our name does bring some credibility. We want to make sure that we influence other industry players by acting as an advocate for what we believe is right. 

TSC: Do investors have a special role to play in consumer protection?

AM: Although the majority of the work has to be done at the provider level, investors should be asking the right questions. We have incorporated client protection concerns into our due diligence process, making sure that the MFI’s mission includes client protection and that the board is aware of these issues. But we are still making progress and would especially appreciate tools to help us ascertain whether the institution is actually doing what they have promised to do.

TSC: What are the most pressing issues for the Campaign today?

AM: The first would be to promote broader ownership of the Campaign. Development agencies and the large foundations in particular need to be brought on board, as well as more MFIs. I think the way to achieve this is to be clear about what we are reaching for and avoid going to extremes. Social metrics should make business sense and should not be perceived as a burden. When people reach for perfection, excellence is lost. Keeping this balance is a crucial element in the success of the Campaign.

Secondly, we are realizing that establishing codes of conduct is only part of the battle. The next step is to set up a certification process and establish standards of performance.

TSC: How contextually specific should client protection be?

AM: There are some things that go beyond culture, and consumer protection is one of them. There is really nothing in the client protection principles that requires cultural sensitivity. On the other hand, the standards behind the principles need to be context-specific, taking into account different markets, economies, and consumer cultures. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to set common standards. For example in the case of responsible pricing, we can still set standards even if they don’t revolve around setting a maximum 5% return on equity for all MFIs across the world.

 
 

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