The frontlines of finance

Madlen Popignatova 17
September 26th, 2018
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
The frontlines of finance

In our newest cohort of creative leaders, we're excited to welcome three women who are on the frontlines of sustainable banking.


Alejandra Stefan is the Competitivity, Solvency, and Financial Inclusion Director at the Honduran Bank Association. She is currently leading a sustainable banking initiative for the banks, focused on environmental and social risk management.


Lola Cardoso is Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at the Union Bank of Nigeria. Lola sees her new role in digital innovation as a chance to build new opportunities for the bank.


Namita Vikas is Group President & Global Head of Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking at YES BANK. She also runs a successful sustainable banking practice. In 2012, she helped set up the YES FOUNDATION, the bank's social development arm that engages the community to work on issues around sustainable development and climate change.

All three women are convinced that banks need to evolve.

The circular economy and digital innovation, in particular, are important vehicles that can generate change.

“As a sustainability professional from a financial institution,” says Namita. “I believe the next frontier of sustainable banking is the circular economy. I would like to focus on financing the circular economy, with an emphasis on decreasing wastefulness and integrating the supply chain, while also reducing costs, the circular economy seems to be the disruption that will define sustainability in the years to come.”

Namita Vikas
Namita Vikas
Group President & Global Head – Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking
"Financial institutions can have a pivotal role to play in encouraging the wider adoption of the circular economy."

Similarly, mobile and digital technology can bridge the gap between social development and large financial institutions. Lola is hopeful that digital innovation can help both the Union Bank and the community at large: “From my perspective, digital offers a new and improved way of doing things.”

It is also hard to ignore the tremendous opportunities for growth in the countries where each participant is based: Honduras (Alejandra), Nigeria (Lola), and India (Namita).

On banking in Nigeria, Lola says: “The consumers in most mature markets are doing really cool things. Some of those cool things haven’t yet materialized – and may not ever materialize – in Nigeria because of the current situation of the average Nigerian consumer. I think we will probably skip phases observed in other economies – like the evolution of the mobile phone from the brick phone to the satellite phone to today’s smart phone– and fast-track progress with access and convenience via mobile and digital.”

frontlines of finance
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On a mission to redefine finance

Alejandra, Lola, and Namita received Dutch development bank FMO’s Desmond Fortes scholarship to join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.

Desmond Fortes was an FMO colleague who unexpectedly passed away in 2015. He was passionate about promoting green finance in developing economies and inspired others with his vision for a sustainable world. In his honor, FMO established the Desmond Fortes scholarship, which aims to equip sustainable businesses with the tools and skills needed to make a real impact.

The scholarship means a lot to Alejandra, who says, “He was a man who strongly believed a better world was possible if we all do our share. What better way for me to honor his memory than to take advantage of this opportunity and do my share to promote sustainable banking practices in my country.”

In the program, Alejandra, Lola, and Namita will not only get a chance to gain insights from a diverse group of thought leaders and changemakers, but they will also refine their own leadership skills and personal development.

On a mission to find out what drives change and to make an impact in banking, it is undeniable that Alejandra, Lola, and Namita are already redefining what it means to be a modern – and sustainable – financial institution.

Are you on the frontlines of an industry that needs reinventing? Join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.