Dr. P.V. Viswanath



Economics/Finance on the Web
Student Interest

  Courses / Microfinance /  

FIN 680: Microfinance: Conceptual and Applied Spring 2013

22669: Wednesdays, 6 pm to 8:45 pm, 1 Pace Plaza, Room W628
Email: pviswanath@pace.edu Tel: (212) 618-6518
Webpage: http://www.pviswanath.com
Blackboard: http://blackboard.pace.edu

Office W416, Pace New York
Office hours:

Mondays, 6 pm to 8:30 pm
Tuesdays, 12:30 pm to 3  pm
Note:  I am in my office in New York most days of the week; let me know if you want to see me at other times.


Course Objectives

This course will introduce students to the economic principles underlying microfinance.  It will also discusses the practice of microfinance in different parts of the world and the empirical research on the impact of microfinance.

Student outcomes:

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good idea of what microfinance is, how it works and future prospects for microfinance in the developed and developing world.

Course Text:



  1. Due Diligence – An impertinent inquiry into microfinance by David Roodman published by Center for Global Development, 2012 (highly recommended) (can be purchased as an e-book from Nookibooks.com -- $4.99 on 1/17/2013 -- or other vendors) (on 3-hour reserve; note it's my personal copy, so please take care!)
  2. Impact Investing by Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson (John Wiley and Sons, 2011) (can be purchased as an e-book from Nookibooks.com -- $9.61 on 1/17/2013 -- or other vendors)

How to Study for this Course and do well:

  • At the beginning of the course, read my notes on Recurring Themes in Finance.
  • Make sure you have read each chapter before you come to class and also tried your hand at the questions on the chapter. The more you have read, the better you will be able to participate in class.
  • Read the recommended books and any supplementary materials that are provided.
  • Go over the powerpoint slides and other notes that have been provided.
  • Keep up with the material on time!

Computer Use and E-mail Policy:

You should obtain a Pace e-mail address as soon as possible, so that I can send you e-mail. Any student's Pace e-mail address can be obtained by going to http://appserv.pace.edu/WhitePages/Students.cfm or by going to the main Pace Home Page and clicking on White Pages from the IntraPace section towards the bottom of the page (the default password is the studentís Pace Identification Number).  More information about e-mail address, etc. can be obtained from the DoIT website and clicking on Computer from the left-hand side menu panel.  Even if you have another e-mail address where you wish to get your e-mail, you should still get a Pace e-mail address.  Once you have your Pace e-mail account and password, you can go to the Pace University Student E-Mail Server at http://stmail.pace.edu and have your e-mail forwarded to your preferred e-mail address.  You can find information on how to have your mail automatically forwarded at the DoIT websiteThe only way that I can communicate with you is through your Pace e-mail account.  So please get your Pace account information as soon as possible.

Check your e-mail and the Microfinance website on a regular basis.  This will enable you to get the maximum from the course. I am available for consultation by e-mail at pviswanath@pace.edu. I check my e-mail practically every day, and, in most cases, you should get a speedy response to any questions.  

We will also be using Blackboard as a gateway for some aspects of the course.  Please log in to Blackboard at the earliest opportunity.    Blackboard login procedures can be found on the appropriate Blackboard site.  Essentially, your login ID for Blackboard will be your email ID, and your password will be your 9-digit social security number.  

Course Requirements

Class Attendance and Participation

Class attendance is mandatory.  This is for two reasons: one, I believe that you will understand the material much better if you attend the class sessions; two, modifications to the class schedule will be announced in class and/or on the BlackBoard website.  Also, on occasion, I conduct classroom exercises, give short quizzes, or assign additional work. If you miss a class session during which we have such a classroom exercise, or additional work is assigned, your grade will be adversely affected for this reason as well.  (Of course, it goes without saying that missing quizzes will affect your grade adversely.)  In any case, you should consult fellow students on what was done during the class time that you missed, and collect handouts for that day's session. You should also bring a calculator to all class meetings.

I also require that you read the Wall Street Journal and/or the business section of the New York Times on a regular basis. Some exam questions will be based on current newspaper and magazine articles that are related to course material. Hence you should cultivate and improve your ability to read newspaper articles critically.  If you do not already subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, you can do so online from the Microfinance Home Page.

There are two other reasons why you should try to attend as regularly as possible. One, classroom participation will help your grade. By participation, I mean answering questions and making intelligent comments. Two, we will sometime do learning exercises in class; doing them can help you substantially in understanding the material.  I often also give credit for participation in these classroom exercises.


The Tutoring Center, located on the 2nd floor, 41 Park Row, offers free tutoring to all Pace University students.

No appointment is necessary, but students should check the schedules posted in the center or call 212-346-1329 for any changes.  Along with their questions, they should come prepared with their course materials.

For more information, please contact John P. Cleveland, the Center Director at 212-346-1407.

Academic Integrity

Educational institutions should aspire to instill in their students an appreciation for and the practice of ethical conduct.  All students are required to adhere to the statement of academic integrity outlined in the Pace University catalog.  Academic integrity infractions can include, but are not limited to, copying and presenting the work of another as your own, collaborating with others on assignments intended to be done individually, using unauthorized resources such as an instructor's manual to complete assignments, copying the work of others during an exam, and failing to reference the work of others or creating fake references in your assignments.  You may receive a failing grade in any assignment, exam, or course in which an infraction takes place, and you may be suspended or expelled from the school.  When in doubt about what might be considered an academic integrity infraction, the best course of action is to ask your instructor for clarification.

If you're not sure what plagiarism is, take a look at the Purdue Online Writing Lab wesbite. Here is some concise, useful advice from that website: Bottom line, document any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you. If you need more information on how to avoid plagiarism, you can find it on the Library's website.

Any student taking this course is presumed to agree to abide by the school policy on academic integrity, as described in the Lubin Graduate Catalog. Please obtain a copy of the catalog and familiarize yourself with the policy.

Disability Policy

Pace University believes that it is important for students receive appropriate accommodation for any disability.  To receive accommodation for any disability, students must contact the campus Counseling Center (Pace Plaza, 212-346-1526; Westchester, 914-773-3710).  The Coordinator of Disability Services will:

  • Evaluate the student's medical/learning/psychological documentation
  • If further documentation is necessary, refer the student for appropriate tests
  • Make recommendations for a plan of accommodation
  • Prepare letters for the student arranging for the recommended accommodations.

Course instructors are not authorized to provide any accommodation prior to your arranging for it through the Counseling Center.

School policy regarding disabilities is described in the Lubin Graduate Catalog. Information can also be found on the University webpage.


Assignments are a critical part of the course.  The main purpose of these assignments is to make sure that you understand the material, and to prepare you for the exams. The deadlines are indicated on the Course TimeTable; if the deadline passes, you will lose points so you are advised to do them on time. Assignments can be found on the website on the Assignments Page.

Reports and Presentations:

Here are some factors that you should keep in mind in writing your reports and preparing your presentation:

Write-ups and presentations must have structure!

Divide your report into sections. In the first section, make sure you give a road-map of what you're going to present in the paper. In the last section, present a brief summary of your paper and what the reader should take away from reading the report. Use one or middle sections, as necessary. If you have distinct components of the paper, use a section for each component. If you're only using one intermediate section, you should still use sub-sections for the different parts of that section. Start a new paragraph for a new idea, but you should not have paragraphs that are too short or too large. The first sentence in the paragraph should provide a connection to the previous paragraph.

If you have numerical facts, see if you can present them as graphs. You can provide the numerical data, but it is better to put them in an appendix, unless it is important for the readers to refer to the numbers as they read the text.

For your presentations, tell your audience in the beginning what you plan to describe; then go ahead and do what you say you will do. If you're presenting facts, present them in a logical sequence. If you’re making an argument, present slides in the sequence in which the argument makes sense. When writing reports, you will have more flexibility in making your points, but in presentations, you need to decide what your main points are and put them in your powerpoints. 

I will grade your reports and write-ups according to a set of rubrics that can be found on Blackboard under Course Documents, as well as on the content of the paper. Make sure that you have a Bibliography, as well, and make sure that this contains not only throw-way online material, but also serious reports and articles.

If you use websites, make sure they are solid websites, like CGAP or the IFMR Blog (http://www.ifmr.co.in/blog/).  To find information on your topic, you can use the Internet, of course, but also look at databases that we have at Pace University, such as ABI Inform, JSTOR etc. Also, look at some of the books on microfinance, they might reference your topic.

Working with Teams

We will be doing class exercises in groups. Please form groups on the first day of classes. It is important that there be diversity in class groups; this is very important for student learning. If I believe that a group is overly homogenous, then I may reassign students to other groups. Make sure you bring a laptop to class since you will be using web resources for some of these assignments. Make sure also that your laptop is charged; unfortunately, there are not many electrical outlets in our classroom to plug in and charge your laptop. (Please do not use classtime to read your email or do other things unrelated to the class.)

Each group will be required to research and make several presentations on specifed chapters from the book, "Portfolios of the Poor" on the assigned days (see Course Outline). Prior to the presentation, the group will also submit a two page write-up and powerpoint slides for the presentation.

Blackboard Discussion Participation:

We might use the Discussion Board feature on Blackboard for discussion on important topics that we don't have time for, in class. If we do this, I probably will give you articles to read and react to. At the bottom of the article, you will generally find some comments/questions at the bottom of the article; however, you should not treat these questions as requiring "answers" necessarily. Rather treat them as my thoughts and simply comment on the issues raised by the article or by the information contained in the article. Even if you are reacting to my thoughts, the structure of your posting should not in the form of an "answer" to my questions. I will deduct points if you ignore this requirement! Postings must be made according to the schedule indicated on the calendar. Do not start new threads unless you have also responded to a previous posting in an existing thread.

Postings will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Originality
  2. Proper Grammar and correctness of spelling
  3. Logic of arguments
  4. Relating arguments to previous posts (the sequence of posts is supposed to represent a conversation -- not a set of unrelated posts of people talking past each other!).
  5. Relating arguments to issues brought up in the text and on the slides.

Please read everybody's posting and reply to them. Look at the discussion forum every couple of days, at least, and keep the discussion vigorous. Your final grade on the Blackboard Discussions will depend on how frequently and regularly you have been posting; posting frequently in the last week will not procure the same grade as beginning to post early and continuing to post over time.


There will be a midterm exam and a take-home final; any changes to this policy will be announced in class. Exams are usually closed book, but I will allow you to bring in one 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper containing only formulas -- nothing else (two sides). More details on the nature of the exams can be found on the FAQ page.  If you miss an exam without being excused, I cannot give you any credit for that exam.  University policy allows make-ups only for serious personal illness or death in the family, for which documentation may be required.  You can look at past exams and solutions on my website; however, the actual format of the exams this term will differ substantially from those of other exams. Please bring your own calculators to the exams; however the use of computers, PDAs, graphing calculator, phone calculators or other instruments that can communicate and/or are able to store alphanumeric information is strictly prohibited during the exam. It is your responsibility to verify whether your calculator is allowed, otherwise you will end up in an exam without a calculator. Get in touch with me regarding any question you may have regarding the exams, or the course in general.

Short Quizzes

There will probably be quizzes, most days, at the beginning of class. This means that you will have to come to class on time. This is particuarly important since we will have speakers for many of our meetings, and we need to cover whatever needs to be done in the remaining time.

Media Articles

On my webpages, you will find recent media articles.  From time to time, I will add to this list.  There are several reasons why you should look regularly at these pages.  

  • I will be posting interesting and recent articles to this directory.  As such, it will be a useful way for you to keep abreast of topical issues (in addition to your regular perusal of the Wall Street Journal.)
  • I will pose questions on the subject matter of several of the articles.  These questions will be good preparation for the media article based questions on the exams.
  • You can draw on the articles for classroom discussions.
  • These articles and the appended questions are useful preparation for job interviews.

The password, necessary to access the Media Articles section, will be announced in class and can also be found at the Blackboard website. In case of emergency, you can contact me for the password.

If you have difficulty in accessing the site and you're using Internet Explorer, you may want to try the following fix: Go to Tools on the Main menu, then choose Internet Options. Then choose Security; after that select Trusted Sites. Then click on sites and add "http://webpage.pace.edu/pviswanath" (make sure that you have unchecked the "Require Server Verification for all sites in this zone").
This should allow you to access the articles by using the correct password.


Your final grade will be determined as follows:

Factor  Impact on grade
Midterm 25%
Final 15%
Portfolios of the Poor Write-up 10%
Portfolios of the Poor Presentation 5%
AM Assignments and class quizzes (if any) 10%
Banco Compartamos Assignment 10%
MFI Project; first draft 10%
Improvement on MFI Project 5%
Class Participation and other assignments, if any 10%

Letter grades will be assigned as follows:  

Course Grade Quantitative Class Score
A, A- 90%-100%
B+, B 80%-89.99%
B-, C+ 70%-79.99%
C 60-69.99%
F 0-59.99%

Note that the minimum and maximum quantitative scores for plus and minus refinements to the letter grades will be at my discretion. These will be partly determined by the distribution of student scores within each letter grade category.   I place a high value on effort; at my discretion, I will raise your grade one notch if I feel that you have tried hard to satisfy all the requirements of the course.


Students must have satisfied the prerequisite for this course, viz. MBA 648. I will presume complete familiarity with all topics taught in this courses.

Data Cards

On the index card handed out in class, please fill in the information requested below.  Make sure to number the item that you are responding to.  Leave space on the top right hand side for a photograph.

  1. Name
  2. Home and Work Phone number; Fax number, if any
  3. Email address, other than at pace.edu (for my convenience).  (Note that I will send you email only to your Pace email address)
  4. Functional expertise/interest in business administration (e.g. accounting, finance, personnel administration)
  5. Work experience, if any (provide particulars of what your duties were)
  6. Previous knowledge of finance (if any)
  7. Interests outside of business management (such as languages, music, etc.)