Volunteer Stories

Lynda Swenson: Giving back from 45 years of finance experience

Volunteering with the Lebanon Investment in Microfinance program.
  • Story Snapshot

  • Country: Lebanon
  • VEGA Lead Member: International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
  • Other VEGA Members: Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC)
  • Objective: To help Lebanese micro and small enterprises increase sales, create jobs, and advance economic growth through improved access to finance.
Volunteer Stories: Lynda Swenson

Watch the full video interview here.

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Lynda's first project was conducting two-day workshops for microfinance institutions (MFIs) on four main topic areas: risk, credit risk, asset-liability management, and credit scoring.

Lynda Swensonlynda
Executive coach with Executive Coaching Network, Inc. (EXCN)
Location: San Diego, CA
Career Summary: Lynda has 45 years of experience in financial services, working in all functional areas and lines of business in banks, savings and loans, and other financial institutions, including community banks and the Federal Reserve System. Currently, Lynda consults and trains banks in multiple areas including: change management, organizational structure, process reengineering and business strategy. She has also previously served as a resident advisor to the Czech Institute of Banking.
Area(s) of Expertise: Commercial banking, banking regulation
Education: CFP, Financial Planning and Services, College of Financial Planning
MBA, Finance, Loyola University of Chicago
BA, Psychology, UC Berkley
Language(s) Spoken: English

Volunteer Assignment and Impact: Although Lebanon has a fairly advanced consumer banking system, loans for small businesses are not widely available. The Lebanon Investment in Microfinance Program (LIM), a USAID-funded program, implemented by IESC through VEGA, addressed this need by awarding $9.5 million in grants to Lebanese microfinance institutions (MFI), which in turn disbursed a total of $35.8 million across nearly 15,000 micro-loans.

Identifying credible lenders among applicants who have no credit history is one of the greatest challenges to microfinance. Drawing on her experience in community banking, Lynda led a workshop for nine partner MFIs on credit risk management and credit scoring. She reviewed policies and provided critical assessments on credit risk, asset-liability management and credit scoring. She also advised on risk-based pricing for new loans, setting variable interest rates based on the credit worthiness of the lender. Critical to sustainability, Lynda also advised on creating a risk committee to monitor and manage risks to the MFI.

Of her experience as a volunteer in Lebanon, Lynda said, “A volunteer needs to be flexible about the living conditions and while talking to the client. Most importantly, at all times be polite, understanding and respectful towards clients.”

MFI staff appreciated Lynda’s approach, indicating that she was a highly experienced and accomplished professional and her much needed training yielded positive results.

 

“A volunteer has to be flexible. That is the most important characteristic. You have to be flexible in terms of your living conditions. In many, many of the assignments the living conditions are basic… you also need to be flexible when you talk to the client. Ask the client, what is it that you want from this two-week, three-week assignment? What is it that will benefit you the most? And be proud to be an American. I am never going to say that I’m not an American on assignment. I try to behave in such a way that people will remember that this was an American who was polite, who understood us and respected us.”–Lynda Swenson