About Us

Team

Nicola Armacost

nicola-armacost Niki Armacost is the Managing Director of Arc Finance. She has 20 years of experience in development throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Read

From 1993 to 2008, Niki worked at Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global microfinance organization. In her last position at WWB, Niki was the Director of Linkages and Learning and served as part of the senior management team. She was responsible for overseeing the network’s learning and knowledge agenda, for promoting the leadership role of members, and for building and leveraging strategic alliances. Prior to this position, Niki held leadership roles at WWB in the areas of knowledge management, market development, policy, and communications. Niki has has strong relationships with top MFIs, banks and investors globally as well as players in remittances and energy product companies. She has been a speaker on microfinance, impact investing, remittances, and sustainable energy at numerous international fora.

Currently Niki serves as an advisor to several organizations including Distributed Capital (financial services, USA), Frontier Markets (distribution systems, USA), SIMPA Networks (payment systems, USA), Stima Systems (micro-leasing, USA) and Ecozoom (cookstoves, USA). She also serves on the Board of Global Exchange (a human rights organization based in California) and on the Board of the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (Misfa).

Niki holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from the University of Toronto, Canada, an LLB from Queen’s University, Canada and an LLM from the Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada. She is both a British and American citizen and speaks English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Yara Akkari

yara-akkari Yara Akkari is Arc’s Project Coordinator, managing the implementation of a business model to promote the use of remittances as a means to purchase clean energy in Haiti. Read

Yara has spent her career in the development sector in a range of different capacities including governance, social development, microfinance, renewable energy and culture. Most recently, she worked at Eko Green, a company based in Nigeria, as a consultant. Her research and work at Eko Green contributed to the implementation of innovative organic farming and low cost ecological housing in Africa. Before joining Eko Green, Yara served as a project management and research consultant for various UN agencies. She worked for the UNDP in strategy development and institutional building for the Lebanese Ministry of Finance and the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) and in the promotion of cultural diversity in least advanced countries through management of projects at the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

She also consulted for Women’s World Banking (WWB), a network of microfinance institutions, contributing to their research and communication initiatives. Yara began her career at Ashoka, an NGO that supports social entrepreneurship worldwide, where she managed fundraising, developed a newsletter on innovative solutions for social change, and supported Ashoka’s fellows in their efforts. Yara received an MS in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and a BA in International Economics from ASSAS University in Paris, both with merit. A native of Lebanon, Yara is fluent in English, French and Arabic.

Sreyamsa Bairiganjan

DSC_4703-2-2 SHREY

Sreyamsa Bairiganjan is Arc’s Project Manager and Agent Model Specialist in India and brings extensive experience in the social and cleantech enterprise engagement space with a special focus on Base of the Pyramid markets.

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At New Ventures, Srey used a triple bottom line approach to mentor, support and estimate market potential for small-scale enterprises across Asia, Africa and South America. Srey forged partnerships with leading donors, clients, investors and NGOs globally, including UNDP, WWF, SEED, ADB, GIZ, to support promising environmental entrepreneurs with both financing and technical assistance. As Head of Enterprise Engagement at New Ventures, Srey worked with over 30 environmental entrepreneurs, helping his team to facilitate investments of close to US$49.43 million.

Srey has authored multiple reports focused on emerging markets, inclusive growth and entrepreneurship. His research highlights the investment and operational needs across Base of Pyramid markets with special focus on inclusive business models. Srey has presented his research at a range of universities including John Hopkins University, New York University, Duke University, Columbia University and University of North Carolina. Srey has also participated as an expert at various global fora, including the G20 Inclusive Business Forum in Germany, Rio +20 Corporate Sustainability Forum in Brazil, the International Business Forum in South Africa and the UNDP-UNESCAP Pro-Poor Public-Private-Partnerships (5Ps) workshop in Thailand. He has served as an expert on UNDP’s panel on investments and mentoring for small-scale energy enterprises across Laos and Cambodia and has juried the prestigious, international SEED Awards in London.

Prior to joining New Ventures India, Srey worked as a senior researcher at the Centre for Development Finance at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, a major Indian think tank focused on Base of the Pyramid issues. Srey completed a program in Investment Management at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) of the Aspen Institute (USA) and graduated with a management degree from one of the premier institutes, the Indian Institute of Forest Management (India).

Aashish Chalise

DSC_4656-2 AASHISH Aashish Chalise is Arc’s Project Coordinator. In this role, he brings extensive experience in financial planning and analysis to the team by overseeing the development of financial projection models. Aashish also optimizes monitoring and evaluation tools and manages Arc’s relationships with partner institutions in India. Read
Prior to joining Arc, Aashish worked as an Operations Manager for Smart Data Solutions in Kathmandu. He managed more than 25 BPOs across India and managed nearly 100 customer accounts. In the United States, Aashish worked for Bank of New York Mellon as a Financial Analyst in its Mutual Fund division in New York. Aashish also worked for Legg Mason Asset Management as a middle office analyst. A native of Nepal, Aashish speaks Nepali, English and Hindi.

Chikako Fujita

DSC_4718-2 CHIKA Chikako Fujita is Arc’s Project Manager and M&E Specialist. She brings over 15 years of deep and diverse experiences from the energy development sector. Read

Before joining Arc, Chika was a Business Development Fellow in Afghanistan for d.light design, a U.S. based social enterprise providing affordable solar lighting solutions. Chika was an Acumen Fund Global Fellow Class of 2011. During her fellowship, she supported Ziqitza Health Care, an Acumen Fund investee based in Mumbai, India. She contributed to Ziqitza’s operation expansion, providing project management, process design and training, and the introduction of a new technology platform. From 2007 to 2010, Chika served as Executive Director at an environmental NGO, Gaia Initiative, in Tokyo, Japan, where she advocated and fund-raised for the promotion of renewable energy for the world’s poor, especially for solar lanterns.

Chika started her career as a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Tokyo, working on supply chain management, business process design, and IT solutions. She also worked with Sanyo Electric, where she was responsible for the strategic communication of corporate vision and clean/green tech products.

Chika holds a BA in International Studies from International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, and a Master of Environmental Management from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. A native of Japan, she is fluent in English and Japanese.

Danielle Golds

Danielle Golds is Arc’s Market Research Associate. In this role, she provides strategic coordination and support services to Arc’s partner institutions, as well as to Arc’s knowledge team. Read
Prior to her work with Arc, Danielle worked as a freelance journalist, covering issues ranging from entrepreneurship to criminal justice to the arts. Danielle is a Master of Letters candidate at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, specializing in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture. Danielle has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St Andrews in English Literature and Medieval History. She speaks English and French.

Saiful Islam

DSC_4663 SAIFUL Saiful Islam is Arc’s Microfinance Operations Specialist, and brings over 20 years of experience in the microfinance industry. In this role, he manages relationships with Arc’s microfinance partner institutions in India. Read

Prior to joining Arc, Saiful was at Women’s World Banking (WWB) where he spent over 15 years working closely with some of the largest MFIs in Asia and Africa, providing strategic advice and technical assistance.  His prior experience includes several years with the Shakti Foundation, a retail MFI in Bangladesh that he co-founded as well as at UNICEF, Bangladesh where he served as a consultant in the Field Operations section.

Saiful has spent his career supporting MFIs to improve and expand their operations, refining existing products and introduce new ones.  Saiful is recognized as an expert on the group lending methodology and has successfully introduced individual lending to traditional group lending MFIs. He has also assisted several MFIs—CARD Bank (Philippines), ADOPEM (Dominican Republic), U-Trust (Uganda), KMB (Pakistan) and KWFT (Kenya)—to introduce voluntary savings. Saiful has authored several publications on savings and portfolio quality management, including a book called Introducing Voluntary Savings – A WWB How-To Guide.

Saiful holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Finance from Dhaka University. He is Bangladeshi-American, is fluent in English and Bangla, understands Hindi and can read Arabic.

Jayesh Jain

DSC_4640-2 JAYESH Jayesh Jain is Arc’s Training and Relationship Manager and leads its energy lending literacy program for microfinance clients in India. Jayesh manages a relationship with one of Arc’s partner institutions in India. Read
Jayesh has 12 years of banking, research, operations and impact assessment experience in financial inclusion space. He has worked with the Grameen Foundation India, Women’s World Banking (WWB), ICICI Bank and Institute of Financial Management and Research. Jayesh completed a rural management course at the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar and is an agriculture graduate from Pantnagar University, India. He is native of central India and speaks Hindi and English.

Cyrielle Jean

DSC_4615-2 CYRIELLE Cyrielle Jean is Arc’s Digital and Social Media Specialist. In this role, she directs the digital dissemination of Arc’s knowledge products. Cyrielle also manages the production of Arc’s knowledge products and supports marketing operations with Arc’s partner institution in Haiti. Read

Cyrielle has several years of domestic and international community-based experience in fundraising, digital marketing, financial literacy, microfinance, youth development and workforce development. Most recently, Cyrielle was a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank, where she worked with its Small Business Trade and Integration team to develop a new strategic digital plan for regional small businesses. Cyrielle has also worked with Fonkoze Microfinance Bank, the largest microfinance bank in Haiti, to launch its Youth Microfinance program, a combined community and workforce development initiative.

Cyrielle holds a Master of Public Administration in Urban Economic Development degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations degree from Tufts University. Cyrielle is Haitian-American and speaks English, French and Haitian Creole.

Miles Lewis

DSC_5060-2 MILESMiles Lewis was Arc’s Summer Intern. In this role he conducted market research for Arc’s ongoing projects in Haiti and India, specifically working with Arc’s Project Coordinator on energy finance initiatives in Haiti. Read

Miles is a Bachelor of Arts candidate at Columbia University, tentatively concentrating on Middle Eastern studies in the MESAAS (Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies) major. Last summer, he will conducted on the ground research in both Haiti and India with the Arc team. Two years ago, he received an NSLI-Y scholarship to study Turkish in Turkey, and he continues to take Turkish language classes at Columbia. He currently moderates English Language conversation groups for English Language Learners at Riverside Language Program.

Miles also works as an associate in the Business and Development branch of the Columbia University Spectator. Before beginning his studies at Columbia, Miles attended Hastings High School in his hometown of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. He speaks English, French, and Turkish.

Guadalupe Lopez de Llergo

DSC_4838 GUADA Guadalupe Lopez de Llergo is Arc’s Market Research Specialist. Guadalupe oversees Arc’s market research studies, from methodological design to data analysis and report compilation. She has 20 years of experience conducting qualitative and quantitative market research throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Read

Guadalupe is the co-founder of Mercaei, SA de CV, a leading market research firm based in Mexico City. Guadalupe’s work provides strategic information to top-level decision-makers in private, public and multilateral organizations. She has extensive experience training researchers, moderators and observers in qualitative studies, training supervisors, interviewers, personnel in proper data-entry, and creation of catalogues for quantitative studies. Her projects involve three categories: social (client satisfaction and behavior, design of new products, positioning and promotion campaigns, remittances, impact evaluation); public (government evaluation, communication campaigns appraisal, programs and demand assessment); and private (client satisfaction, image positioning and price architecture).

Prior joining Arc, Guadalupe was Director for Multilateral Affairs working as liaison between the WHO and OECD and the Ministry of Health in Mexico. Guadalupe has worked with a variety of organizations, such as the Observatory for Decentralized Cooperation between the European Union and Latin America, Women’s World Banking and Catholic Relief Services, as well as government agencies, market research and consultancy firms, and NGOs in Mexico. Prior to founding Mercaei in 2001, Guadalupe worked in microfinance for several years.

Guadalupe holds two master’s degrees from Columbia University in Public Policy Administration and International Affairs, a bachelor’s in International Relations from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and a certification in microfinance market research from Micro-Save Africa. Her international field-work includes projects in Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Botswana, Ghana, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Bolivia, USA, Switzeralnd, Germany, Canada and Mexico. Guadalupe is proficient in Harvard Graphics and SPSS. Guadalupe is a Mexican citizen, and is fluent in Spanish, English and French.

Sam Mendelson

DSC_4966-2-2 SAM Sam Mendelson is Arc’s Knowledge Specialist, working with project partners to gather impact data. Sam was also the 2012-13 DFID/Citi Development Fellow, a position which seeks to engage the private financial services sector in best practice in financial inclusion. Read

Since 2009, Sam has been the co-author of Microfinance Banana Skins, an annual report that ranks the risk perceptions of more than 350 practitioners and close observers of the microfinance scene in 79 countries. He is also the co-founder of SPA – a small Social Performance consultancy offering bespoke SPM audit, analysis and advisory services to Tier 2 and 3 MFIs. Prior to this, Sam was a Senior Consultant in the Emerging Markets practice at ESL & Network (UK) for four years, before which he was Programme Director at the Centre for the Study of Financial Education, a London-based economics think-tank.

Sam has been widely published, including dozens of articles in Financial World magazine, as well as Prospect, Ambassador, the Guardian, Africa Investor, In-Debate and many times in the Gulf broadsheet press. He is the Consulting Editor to Microfinance Focus, and was nominated in 2011 for a Foreign Press Association award in the Feature of the Year category, for a Prospect feature on Qatar. He has a forthcoming chapter on hurdles and issues in a book on microfinance and has written briefing papers for institutions such as Chatham House and CINI-UK.

Sam has undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Law from University of Western Australia, and a Master of Laws (in Public International Law) from University College London.

Micaela O’Herron

Micaela-OHerron Micaela O’Herron is Arc’s Knowledge Manager and Project Coordinator for Arc’s partner institution in Kenya. In this role, she works with Arc’s knowledge team in the research, writing, and editing of knowledge products. Micaela also contributes towards Arc’s M&E efforts and due diligence. Read

Micaela has several years of experience in international development. Prior to joining Arc, she worked as an intern and then consultant for Synergos Institute’s Middle East and North Africa department, where she supported entrepreneurs in the MENA region and developed a streamlined M&E system for the department. She also interned for the United Nations Development Program in Beirut, Lebanon, where she conducted research for its Common Space Initiative. Micaela began her career in Jerusalem, as a Project Manager for the Spain-based Fundación Promoción Social de la Cultura.

Micaela holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Catholic University in Washington, DC. She speaks French and Spanish.

Siddaratha Poudyal

SIDDARATHA POUDYAL Siddaratha Poudyal is Arc’s Junior Analyst. In this role, he provides technical assistance to Arc’s relationships with partner institutions in Nepal. Read

Prior to joining Arc, Siddaratha, worked at Jhuria & Company, a chartered accountancy firm based in New Delhi, India. At Jhuria & Company, he advised both individual and institutional clients on a range of financial services, such as taxation, accounting, auditing, corporate finance and tax law. A native of Nepal, Siddaratha speaks Nepali, Hindi and English.

Lena Street

Lena Street Lena Street is Arc’s Compliance Officer. In this role, she ensures that Arc’s team complies with all regulatory and accounting standards, and that all grant agreement conditions are met. Read

Lena received a BA in biology and music from Columbia University and is pursing a MS in biology at New York University. She is German-American and speaks English and German.

Saurav Timilsina

saurav Saurav Timilsina is Arc’s Program Coordinator. In this role, he provides program support, coordination, partner relationship, strategic advice and technical assistance to partner institutions in Nepal. Read

Saurav has a strong background working in the renewable energy and finance sectors. Prior to joining Arc, Saurav worked at Saral Urja Nepal, a renewable energy services company in Nepal. He helped build the company since its inception, working with all aspects of the company’s strategy and operations. His work also entailed working with product technicians to develop both solar and hydro energy systems across residential and commercial units in Nepal.

In addition, Saurav worked in the microfinance sector in Nepal at Mid-Western Rural Development Bank Limited, working to structure loans for both individual and institutional segments of the population. He also designed new financial products for urban clients. At the Clean Energy Development Bank in Kathmandu, Saurav prepared daily financial statements to the Central Bank of Nepal, facilitated internal and external audits, and prepared monthly trial balance, exhibits, financial reports, balance sheets and asset liability management report, as well as annual financial statements. Saurav also has experience working in the financial sector in New York, as an intern at First Investors Corporation that designed financial products for individual clients.

Saurav holds a Bachelor of Science from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Master in Business Administration from Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. A Nepali native, Saurav speaks Nepali, English and Hindi.

Board

Nicola Armacost

nicola-armacost Niki Armacost is the Managing Director of Arc Finance. She has 20 years of experience in development throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Read

From 1993 to 2008, Niki worked at Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global microfinance organization. In her last position at WWB, Niki was the Director of Linkages and Learning and served as part of the senior management team. She was responsible for overseeing the network’s learning and knowledge agenda, for promoting the leadership role of members, and for building and leveraging strategic alliances. Prior to this position, Niki held leadership roles at WWB in the areas of knowledge management, market development, policy, and communications. Niki has has strong relationships with top MFIs, banks and investors globally as well as players in remittances and energy product companies. She has been a speaker on microfinance, impact investing, remittances, and sustainable energy at numerous international fora.

Currently Niki serves as an advisor to several organizations including Distributed Capital (financial services, USA), Frontier Markets (distribution systems, USA), SIMPA Networks (payment systems, USA), Stima Systems (micro-leasing, USA) and Ecozoom (cookstoves, USA). She also serves on the Board of Global Exchange (a human rights organization based in California) and on the Board of the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (Misfa).

Niki holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from the University of Toronto, Canada, an LLB from Queen’s University, Canada and an LLM from the Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada. She is both a British and American citizen and speaks English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Nancy Barry (Chair)

Nancy Barry Nancy Barry launched Enterprise Solutions to Poverty (ESP) in 2006. ESP works with major corporations, emerging entrepreneurs, and leading business schools to build business models that engage low-income producers as suppliers, distributors, and consumers of products that build income and assets. Read

Nancy is recognized as a global leader in building finance and enterprise systems that work for the majority. She was President of Women’s World Banking from 1990 to 2006, expanding the WWB network to reach over 20 million low-income entrepreneurs and shaping microfinance worldwide. From 1975 to 1990, Nancy worked at the World Bank, pioneering small-enterprise programs and leading work on industry, trade, and finance.

Nancy has a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She has received various awards, including recognition as one of Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 2004 and 2005. She was also named in U.S. News and World Report‘s “America’s 20 Best Leaders” in 2006.

Bhakti Mirchandani (Treasurer)

Bhakti Mirchandani Bhakti Mirchandani is a Senior Vice President at One William Street Capital Management. Most recently, Bhakti served as Global Relationship Director at Barclays for multilaterals, non-profits, and government agencies focused on international development. Read

Prior to joining Barclays, Bhakti served as Vice President of Unitus Capital, a firm that seeks to open global capital markets for the poor.

Her work at Unitus included developing market entry strategies for Philippine microfinance and Indian affordable housing. Before joining Unitus, Bhakti worked in Corporate Strategy and Investment Management at Barclays Capital/Lehman Brothers, where she was also the firm’s Microfinance Specialist. Her work included one of the first microfinance CLOs. Bhakti co-founded the Global Microentrepreneurship Awards (later incorporated into Citi, for which the U.N. presented her with an innovation award) and worked in Homebuilding Equity Research at Salomon Smith Barney.

Bhakti holds a B.A. in Chemistry (cum laude) from Harvard College, an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she received the Dean’s Award. Bhakti has co-chaired five microfinance investor and social enterprise conferences with an aggregate 1,700 participants and published numerous microfinance articles.

Ron Kastner

Ron Kastner Ron Kastner is the founder and CEO of Future Spectrum Ltd., a UK company set up to develop and operate renewable energy sites throughout the UK. Future Spectrum currently has five wind farm sites in various stages of development in Central and Eastern Scotland, with a total of 75MW in planned generation. Read

Prior to launching Future Spectrum, Ron was the founder and CEO of Capital Printing Systems, Inc., a New York-based financial printing company that supported the financial and legal community on financial transactions, printing and logistics. Ron built Capital Printing Systems into a $75 million per-year company and sold it in 2008.

Ron is also actively involved in not-for-profit theater and has been a working producer of theater and film for over 20 years, with credits including productions of Gypsy, True West, and The Real Thing.

Ron is a partner in three successful New York City restaurants, including Five Points, Cookshop and Hundred Acres. Ron has also been on the board of Karen Horney Clinic, a low cost mental health clinic in NYC for over 20 years.