in the past Three seemingly glorious years as 30-year-old prodigy Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) is crowned the “King of Cryptocurrency” and bears a striking resemblance to the legendary Robin Hood . Using his quant and coding skills, not his bow and arrow, he built a $32 billion empire with breakneck speed: cryptocurrency exchange FTX and trading firm Alameda Research. But it’s all supposed to be about helping the poor (via trendy new campaign, effective altruism) – with ex-Alameda co-CEO Caroline Ellison as his maid Marianne and a stunning A roster of A-listers (from top Democrats to star athletes) to his happy man. However, since he was escorted out of his Caribbean home in handcuffs on December 12, he has been notably less cheerful.
So how did the self-proclaimed modern-day Robin Hood, who agreed to extradition to the US earlier this week, end up in chains?
The answer was heralded by another “moral crusader” who, more than a decade ago, experimented with his philanthropic fantasies on the other side of the world: Vikram Akula and his microfinance initiative. Microfinance is an institution that provides financial services, especially small (“micro”) loans, to people who do not normally have access to credit from traditional banks, usually poor women in rural areas. The concept of microfinance and the first microfinance institution, Grameen Bank, was founded in Bangladesh in the 1970s by economist Muhammad Yunus and has since grown to include millions of borrowers in the country and around the world – Win Yunus and his non-profit bank were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to the global eradication of poverty.
Akula, who grew up in the US, wants to bring the business acumen he acquired as a management consultant at McKinsey — the Robin Hood equivalent of archery — to the microfinance model in his native India: specifically, by speeding up the process to bring Coca-Cola Or the logic of a rapidly expanding consumer brand like McDonald’s comes into play. To this end, he founded his own company, SKS Microfinance, in 1997. The faster Akula’s company scaled, the more it could do, SKS quickly became one of the fastest growing institutions in the history of the industry, and Akula became a bold new global face in the microfinance space — e.g., time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2006. By 2010, SKS’s IPO was 14 times oversubscribed, a clear testament to purposeful profit.
The similarities between FTX and SKS go beyond the rebellious personal trajectories of their founders. Like the noble game of cat-and-mouse that Robin Hood and his henchmen play with an overbearing sheriff, both operate on the fringes of the law, in the extralegal space between the legal and the illegal, with the SBF at different levels. The regulated crypto industry while Akula works in the mostly unregulated South Asian microfinance sector. (Akula also had an arrest warrant against him in 2010, and he was never arrested, despite the fact that India’s “magistrates” are.) And both have nominal motives — like “the people’s A man” like Robin Hood — a passion for democratization through empowerment of the people.
In fact, cryptocurrencies and the original model of microfinance have a lot in common. A cryptocurrency is a decentralized digital currency (including, for example, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Binance Coin, and Dogecoin) that is traded on cryptocurrency exchanges (such as Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, and, until recently, FTX , and some brokerage platforms such as Robinhood, Webull and eToro). Unlike traditional “fiat currencies” issued by governments, cryptocurrencies are not backed by any physical assets: their value is created entirely by mutual consent. Since transactions (“blocks”) are verified and recorded (in continuous links, or “chains”) in a code called a blockchain—the equivalent of checkbooks distributed across countless computers around the world—it is Think open, decentralized, and consensus-driven: the ultimate people’s ledger, or an opportunity for millions of ordinary people to co-create their own collective financial story.
The microfinance model, on the other hand, is known for providing loans without contracts or collateral, but instead through “group lending” or organizing borrowers into supportive peer groups, usually five—by allowing Almost anyone (even those without legal or financial assets) can get credit, making it the quintessential People’s Bank. Despite the absence of the usual penalty mechanisms, and again with loans backed by tangible assets (collateral), MFIs have notably achieved and maintained extremely high repayment rates through consensus or mutual consent of borrowers—reportedly often More than 95%. At their core, both are peer-to-peer relationships and dynamics that replace finance’s traditional hierarchies, akin to Robin Hood’s commitment to redistribution as financial justice.
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