Rupert Scofield, the long-time CEO of FINCA International and a “founding father” of microfinance, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on November 27, 2022. He was 73.
An agricultural economist by training and former Peace Corps volunteer, Rupert understood that millions could be brought out of poverty by investing in their untapped wisdom. He held steadfast to the idea that all people deserve the ability to determine their own destiny.
“Rupert was convinced that the world was rich in potential but lacking in opportunity. For nearly 40 years, his leadership and vision empowered millions of people around the world to better their lives,” said David Weisman, chair of the Board of Directors at FINCA International. “He challenged the financial industry and investors to serve all people, not just those who already possess the advantages of education, capital, and connections.”
In 1984, Rupert co-founded FINCA International, a non-profit leader of microfinance and social enterprise. He became the organization’s president and CEO in 1994. He led the organization’s outreach to tens of millions of poor entrepreneurs who benefited from capital, business opportunities, and interventions aimed at giving them the ability to transcend the circumstances into which they were born.
“He was able to transform a simple nonprofit foundation into a global movement too big to fail yet small enough to embrace the poorest,” said FINCA co-founder and economic development expert John Hatch. “I will deeply miss his astute knowledge of human nature. The best possible tribute to Rupert’s memory is to redouble our efforts to abolish poverty and illiteracy on this amazing planet that God has assigned to our care.”
FINCA began providing access to financial services to small groups of women entrepreneurs, eventually growing those initial efforts into a network that spanned five continents. FINCA pioneered the engines of development known as Village Banking, where neighbors in a poor community form a borrowing group to guarantee loan repayment. Rupert helped lead efforts to create and implement the first global financial consumer protections in the microfinance sector under the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Smart Campaign.
Understanding that approaches to poverty must be multi-dimensional, Rupert led FINCA beyond financial inclusion into developing social enterprises that expand access to energy, water and sanitation, education, health, agriculture and fintech. Throughout, he was guided by a conviction that all people deserve the possibility of a self-determination rather than endure the struggle of a pre-determined fate.
“Rupert was a disruptor,” said Andrée Simon, President and CEO of FINCA Impact Finance. “He challenged us to make economically vulnerable people more resilient, not only by providing them with access to capital and financial services, but also by seeking complementary interventions to give them more control over their own destinies.”
In his last act as CEO of FINCA International, Rupert penned a letter to his “FINCA family” that reads less as a farewell and more as a call to arms. “The past 40 years have been more than we had a right to dream of, the next 40 hold the potential to be nothing less than revolutionary,” he wrote. “I am not just hopeful for that revolution. I am relying on you to lead it.”
The Boards of Directors of both FINCA International and FINCA Impact Finance know that the two organizations are well-positioned to build on Rupert’s legacy. “Over the years, Rupert helped develop an excellent team of experienced experts to guide FINCA’s operations and long-term strategy,” said Richard Williamson, a founding member of FINCA who serves on the boards of both FINCA International and FINCA Impact Finance. “He left FINCA in fully capable hands.”