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News & opinion

28 APR 2020

Empowering inclusivity through finance

RICS Americas Board Member Noelle Brisson has had an exceptionally diverse career. Now based in Dallas, she originally joined RICS in France. She started out her career as an urban planner, but eventually pivoted into structured finance, capital markets and asset investment and management, and is now a leading expert on sustainable planning and cybersecurity, particularly as it relates to smart buildings.

Throughout all of this, there has been a unifying thread: Brisson chooses projects that have the potential to make the world a better one, and at this point in her career, she has the freedom to choose the projects that really excite her.

So, what excites Noelle Brisson FRICS in 2020? Financial inclusivity and cybersecurity for smart buildings.

“Working for a long time in finance and portfolio management, I recognized that in order to create opportunities for a balanced society, we need to provide financial access for everyone—especially in underserved communities—to build their businesses and deliver on their communities’ needs.”

Now, Noelle does a lot of work with Enda Tamweel, a microfinance institution based in Tunis. Serving as a Board Member and Chair of its Audit Committee, she sees first-hand how powerful access to capital can be as a force for both equity and economic development.

Noelle Brisson portrait
Noelle Brisson FRICS
aerial view of city
Noelle Brisson FRICS believes that financial access should be provided to everyone - particularly those in undeserved communities

“We’re seeing real change in the clients Enda Tanweel serves,” she says. “We provide these communities with resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Aside from the humanitarian benefits, this kind of financial empowerment creates greater social, economic and environmental sustainability, especially for women who comprise two thirds of our borrowers.”

Microfinancing operates under the idea that providing financial services to low-income people is a greater tool for building business and assets in these communities than other, less-direct forms of aid. It jumpstarts business viability and growth for populations in which traditional lenders and finance firms wouldn’t see large enough volume or too much risk to lend.

Microfinancing mitigates economic risk for low-income populations without tying them to cycles of extreme debt. Companies like Enda Tamweel underwrite small sums (the average loan is about $2,500) that can make a huge difference for a farmer, a small business owner or a start-up.

“Loan inclusion—and financial inclusivity as a whole—is a major arena for creating change for everybody and building resiliency from the ground-up,” says Brisson. “The fact is that much of the world doesn’t have the financial access to weather economic storms, and this has been cruelly demonstrated under the COVID-19 pandemic and the halt of activities. The microfinancing industry is trying to change that and support those vulnerable populations not only in healthy cycles but also in downturns.

Loan inclusion—and financial inclusivity as a whole—is a major arena for creating change for everybody and building resiliency from the ground-up

Noelle Brisson FRICS

To date, Enda Tamweel has granted approximately 3.4 million loans to nearly 900 000 clients, and they have about 400 000 active clients who need help in the difficult times that have emerged this year.

“For the spaces where RICS is most influential, in land, infrastructure and the built environment, the benefits are huge. We are helping people assert their autonomy for their land, their assets and their communities.”

“This is something that as an America Board Member, I’d like to get more RICS professionals involved in. As a global body that advocates for business practices that benefit the public, this is highly aligned with our mission, and it touches on everything from valuation and land rights to business ethics and financial transparency.”