Social Entrepreneurs: Gary Hattem and Asad Mahmood

Friday, December 16, 2011

When Gary Hattem and Asad Mahmood of Deutsche Bank AG closed the $15 million Eye Fund I in 2010, they completed what had become a more than five-year endeavor.

“When it started, the problems were conceptual. People were not ready for it,” says Mahmood, a managing director who oversees $500 million in loans and investments. “The common perception was that bringing debt into hospitals that are serving the poor was not an acceptable way of doing things.”

The Eye Fund is a social investment project that provides low-cost loans to eye-care hospitals in China, Nigeria and Paraguay. Patients with greater economic means pay more and subsidize care for poorer patients. The institutions produce enough cash to repay loans.

Many foundations and eye-care corporations were just not comfortable with the loan model.

Deutsche Bank has had a prior history in microfinance. In fact, the German bank has been engaged in microfinance and community development finance for more than 20 years.

In addition to Hattem, who is managing director of community development finance and president of philanthropic unit Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, and Mahmood, the Eye Fund team includes fund manager Ben Midberry.

The Eye Fund has distinguished collaborators that include David Green from Ashoka, a global organization for social entrepreneurship, who is also a MacArthur fellow and a recipient of Helen Keller International’s award for humanitarian work to prevent blindness. Green helped develop the Aravind Eye Hospital, an institution in southern India, and Auralab, which manufactures low-cost lenses used in cataract treatments and other medical products. He has also created solar power and general healthcare funds.

Another partner is the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, a group based in London working to eradicate the causes of avoidable blindness.

With the financing, the partners aim to increase the number of eye surgeries at the three hospitals by 150% within seven years.

Source: The Deal Magazine (link opens in a new window)