Dave Kim

Hi! It’s Dave!

Hi! I’m Dave!

If you only had 30 seconds, I’d share with you a few things:

  • I grew up in NJ and spent my 20s in NYC. I thought I’d give Seattle a three year shot before moving back to NYC. I’ve been in the PNW for almost seven years, and in that time, I got married, had a kid, and moved to an island. You know that saying about the best laid plans, right?
  • I studied anthropology, learned business as a management and strategy consultant for half a decade, discovered the joy of creating and teaching others how to create as an innovation and design consultant, and I now make investments as a program officer on the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While it looks like a nice, well-planned path, it was anything but that!
  • One of the first things I did when I joined ?What If! Innovation was to voice over a sizzle reel for a pet insurance company. In another life, I’d be a voice over actor.
  • I think often about the lottery of birth, the wisdom from a five year old’s questions, and the moments of real connection that can come from the twists and turns of a conversation with a former stranger.


In My Words

Recently1, I was in a small group setting, and we went around the group to introduce ourselves and explain what we did for a living. When it was my turn, I told everyone that I was a program officer on the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Silence. Crickets. Kind, but confused smiles.

Sensing that I needed to offer up more information, I followed by explaining that I used to lead our team’s product innovation strategy and that I was now leading our team’s new strategy on cash-in cash-out networks - a bizarre, yet important piece of infrastructure that’s essential in bridging people from the physical to the digial world - and financial health.

Muffled coughs. Shuffling feet. Still, kind, but more confused smiles.

Yikes. I hadn’t realized just how much jargon and code I was using to explain my job. Clearly, I needed to talk like a normal, real person.

So, here goes. Let’s break it down.

I work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sometimes referred to as the Gates Foundation and embarrasingly shortened to BMGF in too many emails, is a private foundation that believes that there is value in every life and that everyone deserves a chance to lead a healthy and productive life. We look to make this guiding belief a reality by supporting and funding our amazing partners around the world.

I’m a program officer on the Financial Services for the Poor team.

I’m a part of the Financial Services for the Poor (“FSP”) team. We believe that we can help more people get out of poverty faster and have fewer people fall into poverty through digital financial tools.

As a program officer, my job is to create a strategy - in my case, my strategies are around cash-in cash-out (“CICO”) and financial health - and work with partners to co-create a portfolio of investments.

I lead our strategy on cash-in cash-out (“CICO”).

Ok, here goes. Cash-in cash-out, sometimes known as CICO (I pronounce it as “key koh”, but I really don’t know if there is a standard for this), is shorthand for the different ways that you can convert your money between physical cash to digital money. In the United States, ATMs, bank branches, and even getting cash back at your bodega are all examples of CICO models. In countries like Kenya or India, we typically see individuals working as agents and providing this service.

CICO networks are incredibly important as they serve as a bridge from a cash-based ecosystem to a digital one. However, there are a number of challenges with the CICO models as they exist today. Stay tuned for more.

I also lead our work on Financial Health.

I never thought I’d be leading our work on Financial Health. This body of work stemmed from my frustration with the common set of metrics (our community’s love language) that guides the financial inclusion community. And if we subsribe to the mantra that you manage what you measure, well, we needed to fundamentally rethink what we were doing, especially from a product innovation perspective. I tell my friends that this is my trojan horse to inspire better product and policy innovation in this space.

It just seemed a little too hand-wavy going from measuring someone’s access to a set of digital financial tools and drawing a clear line to poverty alleviation, especially when we know that people have vibrant and complex financial lives - with or without the introduction of formal or digital financial tools.

Through this work, I am looking at two things:

  1. By understanding someone’s financial health, can we identify a set of needs and opportunities that requires solutions that go beyond the typical payments, savings, credit, insurance set?
  2. Financial health is a global condition. How might we accelerate the flow of information, insights, and solutions across the global network and not just within the international development community?

We are in an exciting time in the financial inclusion community! Seriously! More and more people are questioning the traditional markers of success and are exploring different sets of metrics to guide our work towards the promised land. If we can successfully retarget people’s expectations from measuring access and use of digital financial tools to bravely looking at how people are actually doing, we may be on to something pretty special.

I used to cover Kenya as a country program officer.

It’s true! Before we made the case to combine the management of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, I was the country program officer for Kenya.

I was lucky to immerse myself in the country and work with some incredible partners to drive our financial inclusion strategy. Today, I am the chair of FSD Kenya’s Program Investment Committee.

Official Bio

Dave Kim is a Program Officer on the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He leads the team’s strategies on cash-in cash-out (“CICO”) networks and financial health.

During his time at the Gates Foundation, Dave has created FSP’s product innovation strategy that worked on catalyzing a vibrant and open ecosystem of digital financial tools in emerging markets, served as the country program officer for the team’s work in Kenya, and represented the Gates Foundation across multiple working groups and organizations (e.g., World Economic Forum, International Development Innovation Alliance). He is also the chair of FSD Kenya’s Programme Investment Committee.

Prior to the Gates Foundation, Dave was at ?What If! Innovation, a global innovation and design firm, and Opera Solutions, a management and strategy consulting firm, in their New York and London offices. Dave holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Cornell University.

  1. Well, this was in the Before times. ↩︎