In April 2006, Morgan Stanley began raising money for microfinance institutions. “Microfinance is reaching a point where private capital is entering, and Morgan Stanley wanted to use its capabilities to get into this industry,” says Henry Gonzalez, an associate in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley’s London office. “This was not philanthropy,” he explains. “This was aligning a business unit with amazing social gains.”

Although companies like Morgan Stanley may develop products and...

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