A recent email from my good friend John Owens saddened me. After 13 years in the Philippines, John Owens will be leaving the Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) program as the Chief of Party and turning over the reigns to his Deputy. A program which has pioneered financial inclusion at the grass roots level for so long in the Philippines. Many would be unware that John's efforts at MABS and the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) has played an active and hugely influential role in the role out of GCash, Globe Telecom's Mobile Money offering, and part of one of the most successful and longest running contracts that USAID has ever supported in the field of microfinance. Since the beginning of the GCash, it has opened over 120,000 new GCash accounts in the three target provinces, exceeding original targets set by CGAP and GCash. Accounts have been used to send money domestically among other payment services. GCash also added another 200 agents to the three locations since March 2009, and it globally recognised in amongst the top success stories in mobile money.
John Owen's core role in the Philippines was with The Microenterprise Access to Banking services (MABS) Program works with Rural Banks to assist them to develop the capability to profitably provide financial services – loans, deposits, micro insurance, and money transfers – to the microenterprise sector. A role which took on entirely new horizons when mobile phones were seen as a key instrument for driving better leverage of technology in rural and remote locations. You can find a wealth of positve stories and initiatives on MABS Blog.
John Owens is a rarity in today's world, he is a kind warm hearted individual that was prepared to follow his passions without any desire for fame or fortune. I was humbled when he recently agreed to join Next Bank Asia, to share his stories from the frontline. You can catch his Next Bank Asia presentation on VIMEO. John Owen's experience is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed. Although this chapter of his life it coming to a close, I have no doubt that his skills and experience will shine on whatever project he pursues, something clearing expressed in John's parting words:
"I look forward to building on my 25 years of work experience in expanding financial inclusion through micro and small business finance, mobile money, microinsurance, leveraging public and private partnerships to invest in the base of the economic pyramid and improving the regulatory enabling environment for economic growth. I plan to continue to share my expertise and passion in this field and will let you all know about my next steps."
John Owen's years at MABS leaves a wealth of practical tools, processes and technology that have become the benchmark for Financial Inclusion initiatives around the world. For a sneek peek at his work, check the BANK ON IT video. It is the single most successful microfinance project in the Philippines. It is transforming the rural banking sector by taking one innovative approach after another.
John Owens has been a close friend for a number of years now, and I look forward to supporting him during the next chapter of his career. I encourage you all to share your appreciation for his amazing work... you can find him on Twitter @jvowens
Thank-you for all your efforts John, and I look forward to working with you again in the future.