CEO’s origins can be traced back to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) efforts to help newly- arrived refugees and other low-income families climb the economic ladder. Lack of credit and access to consumer financing was immediately apparent as a significant barrier to prosperity for IRC’s clients – and not only for refugees, but for low-income immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
Finding partnerships with existing lenders that could reliably, consistently, and affordably extend financing to its clients proved elusive, and so IRC began to offer loans directly – and did so in tandem with their anti-poverty social service efforts.
By 2016, the IRC had made over 3,000 loans totaling $3 million primarily to low-income refugee and immigrant borrowers while maintaining a 94% repayment rate on its portfolio. More importantly, borrowers were able to build credit, buy cars, start businesses and pay for training that could lead to higher-wage, higher-skilled work. CEO was founded by IRC to bring CEO’s unique model and approach to a larger scale.
IRC began lending in 2003 – and CEO’s model today is directly informed by IRC’s over 15 years of experience and iterative improvements, mistakes and breakthroughs.
CEO is designed to offer modest loans at affordable rates from within trusted community locations – this formula has worked within IRC’s setting, and we are eager to explore applying the model in different contexts, with different partners and for other populations.