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A Word with Rekha Nair

Posted 14 December 2022 in EMpower News   |   Share


Recently EMpower’s President & CEO Cynthia Steele spoke with Rekha Nair, Executive Director, Emerging Market Sales, at Standard Chartered Bank and a new member of EMpower’s US Board of Directors. They talked about drawing interest in the financial field, the goddess Lakshmi, and more. 

Before joining the Board, you were a leader of our Next Gen initiative. I'm interested to hear your advice on how to best engage the next generation of leaders in finance.

I encourage people to take the time to listen to what EMpower actually does to change the lives of girls and young women in emerging market countries. They would be as impressed and as compelled as I am to get involved.  

I know our day-to-day lives are complicated, but what I was drawn to is that EMpower keeps things simple. The grantmaking models are transparent: what we find, who we find, and how we find. It's also a way to feel connected to the markets that we transact in, and that was one of the biggest reasons I was drawn to the organisation. On a more selfish note, for the next generation of leaders in emerging markets, it's a very easy way to network with the huge EM universe, especially now that people have gone remote and not everyone is always in the same place. It's another way to feel connected. I think if we can find a way to impart that to people—efficiently and quickly—that'll help bring more people to the table.  

I know you're keen to visit our grantee partners and am curious to know what you're excited to see on your first such visit. 

I'm excited to meet people in person: the young people that benefit from the programme and the wonderful local people who dedicate their lives to changing others’ lives. I want to see the impact of the money that we raise. I've heard that it's an extremely humbling and gratifying experience to be on the ground—especially outside of the finance bubbles that we are in all day, every day. So I look forward to being enlightened. 

We’re speaking around the time of Diwali and the festival season of Hinduism, I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about the broader meaning that we all may take from the goddess of Lakshmi, and thinking about wealth and giving back?

I'm certainly no expert on the Hindu gods, and I really wish that I knew more. That being said, my family and I are celebrating Diwali this year. In fact, my daughters, who are four and seven, are throwing their own Diwali celebration for their friends to really savour the day and to learn more in-depth about the things that you do to celebrate and why we celebrate. Diwali marks the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, and it's also the beginning of a new financial year. Many people say it signifies the renewal of life. My broad takeaway is that this is a chance to start the year with a fresh slate, an open mind, and an open heart to learning, growing, and giving back. 

Oh, that's beautiful. Are there any other things that you want to add about investing in girls and how important it is to create broad horizons for them?

It is what is dear to my heart. I see why they can be some of the most overlooked and marginalised, and they would benefit from a voice to bolster them. That's what I love about EMpower: the fact that it's so clear what the impact is, and the programmes are so transparent. You really get to understand how we're affecting people's lives. To me, that's the biggest takeaway.  It's not a great year for EM—and it hasn't been for a little while. But I think there's still this underlying concept of investing in people that's important regardless of what the markets are doing.

I agree. It's important to give people a sense of hope and promise; there are good things happening. Even on a day that's dark in the markets, people can do something that's shining a bright light on somebody else. Thank you! 

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