Just over seven months after taking the reins as the 14th president of the World Bank Group, Ajay Banga is promising major changes are underway—even if there will be more bumps ahead for the 78-year-old organization that’s been ridiculed by critics in recent years.
“We are going to make mistakes along the way because no risk has no reward,” Banga said Wednesday at a panel discussion hosted by Fast Company at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Past mistakes, he says, include the bank’s failure to take into account the challenges of climate change, among other factors, while trying to tackle poverty and the increasing mistrust between the so-called global south and the global north.
Banga, who spent more than a decade as CEO of Mastercard, is calling on his former counterparts in the private sector to invest in emerging markets to help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges—and promises the risk will be worth the returns.
“We have to get with the program of finding a practical way to move money from the developed world to the developing world because the developing world needs the money,” Banga said.
In July 2023, the World Bank announced a private sector investment lab made up of 15 executives in the financial services sector—including Larry Fink of BlackRock, Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara of Temasek, and Noel Quinn of HSBC, among others.
“I believe that the space we’re in, you cannot manage without the private sector’s active involvement,” said Banga. “You need to help us, not just by telling us that everything is wrong, but help us by moving towards the right direction.”
Banga’s vision for investing in emerging markets doesn’t need much convincing with one CEO, who says he’s already “really proud” of the work Banga has done in his brief tenure. Hans Vestberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, says investing in underserved communities—be it in the United States or globally—may appear to be a “social good,” but it’s really just how the mobile carrier approaches business.
“Philanthropy is great, but that’s very far from what we’re doing,” Vestberg said during the same panel discussion.