Henry Bruce

Henry Bruce, Director of Product at Microfinance Information Exchange

“The real world for us is the Enterprise, the business, not the consumer. There are lots of people gathering demand-side analysis, but few are focusing on information for the supply side, the institutions.”

Pronouns: He/Him/His

As Director of Product at Microfinance Information Exchange, Henry Bruce creates information products for global financial services organizations and their investors. An electronic engineer by training, Henry began his career as a software developer, but over time has retrained his focus towards business & people problems. “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.” He is also a Board Member of the Microfinance Club of New York and has volunteered as a technology consultant for the Environmental Defense Fund. You can connect Henry on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

What Does He Do?

In response to the 1.7 billion “unbanked” across the globe, that is, those who have no access to formal financial services, MIX creates tools and processes that collect data, providing actionable data and insights that empower decision-makers to deliver inclusive financial services.

“The real world for us is the Enterprise, the business, not the consumer. There are lots of people gathering demand-side analysis, but few are focusing on information for the supply side, the institutions.”

Henry oversees MIX’s product and technology teams who work with investment banks, impact investment funds, the World Bank, as well as some NGO’s who are in adjacent spaces, such as water.org, as well as academic institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania who access its data sets for research. In addition to some 1,600 financial institutions around the world that access their data — spanning some eighteen countries — MIX works with social enterprises who aren’t explicitly in the financial services space, by often fund access to programs such as pay-as-you-go for energy.

The field of financial inclusion has exploded in the past few years and MIX has been agile and responsible to the nontraditional actors that have entered the fray, beyond banking institutions, such as post offices, mobile network operators, and agent networks.

“My role is on the ongoing service side under the brand and platform MIX Market. We are jointly responsible for maintaining what we’ve sold, as well as building and improving providing support in these new areas.” Additionally, Henry’s group also maintains archived data which dates back fifteen years.

How Did He Get Into This Work?

Henry was exposed to different cultures from an early age.

“As a very young person — in my single-digit years — my parents were very big travelers. We journeyed to quite far-flung, remote places like Africa where my uncle still lives, and where they first met. This might have set me on the path to move around the world from London to NYC (for his work at Sapient). Probably, early on, this put my life in the perspective of others.”

Henry worked for Sapient the better part of ten years, seven or eight in investment banking. He recalls that interacting with the vast wealth that is common for hedge funds, “was a trigger to put me in a different direction. The type of money they’re making… these clients were investors and [I realized that it was] not the best way to spend my life.”

For a time Henry pursued pro-bono work as a side hustle. In particular, he advised CYCLE Kids, a small charity out of the Boston area which provides bikes to at-risk adolescents, teaching them how to ride. In working with them, he discovered that social enterprises needed his strategy chops as much as his technology expertise: “They didn’t know what they didn’t have. Consulting was as much needed as the tech help. With the Environmental Defense Fund, it was “helping to break down the problem and deciding where to start.” He educated them to ask, ‘“What is [our] problem? Not… “we want Airtable!”’

After several years of balancing both, he proposed to his full-time employer that he formalize its CSR program within the organization. The timing was fortuitous since Sapient’s presence in India meant that it had to comply with a then-recent mandate to donate 1-2% of their annual revenues to CSR. Henry piloted this over a 15 month period and, in retrospect, it was the perfect glide path for him to gain first-hand expertise and then proceed to working full-time in the non-profit sector.

What Project Is He Working On?

“Our theory of change addresses the gaps and constraints in the information market. We support more efficient, effective, more transparent, and accountable financial markets, including agricultural markets, energy markets — areas in which we’re trying to make more information available.”
Henry is currently focused on selecting a business intelligence tool to offer to his customers that is embedded with MIX’s data. His broader remit is to build a sustainable product and associated delivery team within a non-profit that does custom contract & project work.

“Where we can really add value is the collection of data. What can we bring to the standardization of data? Part of our role to be an objective third party. We’re not the whistleblower.”

In a sense, The MIX seems to be the financial analogue to Open Corporates. That is, they have the data and are agnostic; they look to partners to use it to surface value and meaning.

How Did He Come to Civic Hall?

Henry was connected to Civic Hall via Sean Martin McDonald, CEO of a member organization, FrontlineSMS, and first met Alex Pitkin in DC before joining us.

In the short, while he’s been at Civic Hall he’s become a fan of Microsoft/Datakind’s monthly Machine Eatable.

What are you reading right now that is inspiring?
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmul, co-founder of Pixar.

What Is His Ask of Civic Hall?

“To share your data and analysis challenges and successes, preferably in the B2B/Enterprise context, but undoubtedly lessons to be learned from B2C.”

Henry also takes a broader view of anyone working with data — even if they’re not in financial inclusion, or even finance: “I’m interested in the practice connection: How do you incentivize reporting? How do you return value for people giving you their data? How do you make data navigable?”

In this photo, Henry Bruce and his wife are participating in a tribal dance in a Maasai village in Kenya.