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Atul Tandon heads Opportunity International in Chicago. 0

Once on the fast track, he now leads fight on poverty

December 27th, 2016

A former New York banker with a Jesuit education and a good sense of humor is now leading a Chicago nonprofit.

Atul Tandon was recently named U.S. CEO of Opportunity International, which has a $60 million global budget and works in developing nations to help people work their way out of poverty.

Tandon grew up in modest means in India but saw that country’s slums. His parents made education a priority and sent him, as a youngster, to a Jesuit school a few thousand miles away to study. He would take “a three-day, two-night train” trip to see his parents in the summer.

He calls his Jesuit education a “guiding light in my service to the poor.”

Tandon went on to study business and economics in college and launched a financial services start-up in India before working at Citibank. In 2000, after 13 years in banking in India and New York, he moved into nonprofits, working at World Vision and United Way Worldwide before starting at Opportunity.

He points to World Bank numbers that show 767 million people in 2013 lived on less than $1.90 a day, a drop from 1990 when 1.85 billion lived on that amount.

“We will see the end of extreme poverty in the next 12 to 15 years,” he says. “To be able to say that makes my hair start to grow again.”

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