September 26, 2008 / 7:16 PM / 11 years ago

"Banker to poor" has suggestion for bankers to rich

Grameen Bank Founder and Managing Director Muhammad Yunus participates in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 26, 2008. Established by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2005, the event is designed to bring donors together with people in need to try to solve global problems. REUTERS/Chip East

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If Wall Street’s storied investment banks need help easing their financial woes, they would do well to look to the world’s humblest lenders, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said on Friday.

Yunus, nicknamed “banker to the poor,” won the Nobel in 2006 for inspiring a global microfinance movement that has lifted millions out of poverty by granting tiny loans. Started 30 years ago with a $27 loan to women in Bangladesh, his Grameen Bank has mushroomed by providing credit to poor people who do not have access to mainstream banking.

Unlike Wall Street, which is reeling from a flood of loans that may never be paid back, Grameen bank has a recovery rate of more than 98 percent.

“Today, if we are prepared, we could buy some of those falling banks in the United States, no problem, it’s possible,” Yunus said semi-seriously at former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s philanthropic summit, the Clinton Global Initiative.

“Don’t ignore them (the poor) ... we lend over a billion dollars a year,” he said. “We have to get out of the mindset that the rich will do the business and the poor will have the charity.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Patricia Zengerle

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