Andrée Simon is the co-chief executive at FINCA Microfinance Holding. (Beverlié Lord)

Andrée Simon is co-chief executive of FINCA Microfinance Holding, a subsidiary of the Foundation for International Community Assistance International, a District-based global microfinance organization. She shares the role with Rupert Scofield, who co-founded FINCA in 1984 and is remaining as president and co-chief executive of the subsidiary through 2016.

Q. Where did you grow up?

A. I grew up mostly in France and the United States. My dad is French and my mom is American.

Was that what prompted an early interest in international affairs?

When I was in sixth grade and had just moved to a very, very small town in rural France, I walked into my classroom the first day, and I was sitting there with all these children, and they said, “How did you get to France from the United States? Did you take a train or a bus?” I don’t think I digested it at that moment, but I remember thinking, “Wow, people have very different conceptions of the world.”

Why did you live in Japan between high school and college?

I grew up in France, which is a very socialist country, but I also lived in the United States, which is focused very much on capitalism. My father is a philosophy professor, so we had lots of discussions around sociology, economics and philosophy. Back then, I thought Japan was the perfect blend of socialism and capitalism. I’ve always been very interested in development and social impact in particular. I was going to help translate what Japan had done right into the economic structures of the rest of the world so that we could all live peacefully with fair distribution of resources.

Why an MBA?

I pretty much knew that I had to learn business. I was very interested in policy, but my takeaway from working at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was the people who had the most influence over policy were the ones who were running businesses. That’s really what set my path toward Wharton and working in financial services generally. I thought if you really want to drive change you have to drive it through how people access their money.

How did you end up at FINCA?

This is where happenstance is amazing. I had a close friend from my time at CSIS who was working at FINCA and she . . . called me and she said there’s this job at FINCA. I was so enthralled. The people in the organization were all so excited and committed and passionate about what they were doing. I went home and was like, “This is nuts. It’s less than half of what I was making in the U.K.” I accepted it.

How does being a co-CEO work?

[Co-founder Rupert Scofield] and I have known each other for an extraordinarily long time, and we have effectively been co-CEOing the organization already. The kind of co-CEO relationships that work really well are when it’s really about a transition and not necessarily about trying to co-manage the business on an ongoing basis.

Can you explain how the holding company is structured?

FINCA International was started as a nonprofit 30 years ago. Over time, the foundation realized we needed to offer deposits. The foundation started transforming the individual subsidiaries in the various countries to take deposits. In order to do that, they had to become investible entities. So they formed the FINCA Microfinance Holding, which is what I am running. It is a for-profit institution. Our investors very much expect a return.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

A second revolution in microfinance. There is still a dire need for responsible finance to ensure clients are treated fairly, receive education along with financial products and are given options to recover when things don’t go as planned. An organization that has sustainability and making a social impact built into its DNA is best suited to do this.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Power is overrated. I remember very early on in my career walking through a parking lot with a senior adviser, whining about how I could do so much more if I just had the authority to tell everyone what to do. He put his hand on my arm and turned me toward him and said, “You are complaining about the wrong thing. You need to learn to walk in everyone else’s shoes and understand why they feel the way they do, and from that you can take them in a different direction. That is leadership.” I absolutely hated him at the time, and it was without a doubt the absolute best career advice I have ever received.

— Interview with Kathy Orton

Andrée Simon

Position: Co-chief executive, FINCA Microfinance Holding, a subsidiary of the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) International, a District-based global microfinance organization.

Career highlights: President, chief operating officer, Women for Women International; global chief operating officer, FINCA; strategy consultant, Marakon Associates; research analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Education: BA, international relations, University of Virginia; MA, international economics and Japan studies, Johns Hopkins University; MBA, University of Pennsylvania.

Age: 45