How Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s Dia Martin, WG’02, furthers both development and U.S. policy goals through publicly financed impact investments, interviewed by Megan Foo, W’19

Dia Martin, WG’02, is a Managing Director on the Social Enterprise Finance team in the Small and Medium Enterprise Finance department of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in Washington, D.C. OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution; it mobilizes private capital to help solve development challenges and advances U.S. foreign policy.

With OPIC, Dia is responsible for providing financing to projects and funds active in microfinance, SME and other impact investment sectors. Dia also leads the Portfolio for Impact program, which is focused on financing scalable, earlier stage projects that are highly developmental.

How did you first become interested in public finance and how did these interests lead to your career at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)?

Dia Martin: I interned at OPIC while I was in graduate school and became very interested in working with OPIC over the longer term. My interest in OPIC and public finance is a part of my long-term desire to work in finance to support the development of communities, particularly through OPIC and development finance in the private sector.

For example, one of the deals that I am very proud of underwriting at OPIC is Medical Credit Fund.  It is a social impact fund that enables small and medium healthcare enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa to access affordable finance in order to improve the quality of healthcare.

Can you tell us more about your role on the Social Enterprise Finance team at OPIC and some initiatives you have led?

Dia Martin: As a Managing Director on the Social Enterprise Finance team, I underwrite transactions ranging from $1 to $250 million in high impact sectors, including healthcare, access to finance, education, and agriculture. I also lead the management of the Portfolio for Impact program, an innovative program that was launched in 2014 at OPIC to provide high developmental earlier stage companies with debt capital to needed to scale.

Going forward, what are some challenges and opportunities you see for international development?

Dia Martin: I believe the main challenge is to pursue development in a way that alleviates or eliminates issues related to poverty and to provide opportunities. With this in mind, I think it is important, although more difficult, to structure solutions and interventions to be sustainable and have a long-term, measurable impact. This can be difficult as these types of solutions can take more time and resources upfront and require a level of commitment and risk that may not be ideal for sponsors that face limits imposed by regulatory, political or strategic planning timelines.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work, and how did you seek to overcome them?

Dia Martin: There are two major challenges that I have faced.  Like many women, I sometimes doubt myself.  It can be challenging when working in different cultures and new environments where business protocol is not necessarily the same. This challenge has forced me to work harder to change my mindset, practice new skills and be open to seek the education I need to grow professionally. The second challenge relates to external obstacles in my path.  When faced with external obstacles, I am pushed to think creatively on how to reach my goals through a path that may not be as direct. I have also found that it is extremely helpful to shift my focus to the long-term when I face external challenges to stay motivated and ensure that I stay on track.

This interview was conducted as part of the Inspirational Women Series, conducted by Megan Foo, W’19. Read the full story on Megan’s site.

Posted: August 9, 2017

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