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> Posted by Rafe Mazer, Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

CGAP recently launched a Mystery Shopping Technical Guide, based on our experiences sending lower-income consumers to seek financial products in markets as diverse as Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines.

The method of training actual consumers to conduct mystery shopping has proven helpful to understand the challenges they face in achieving financial access and receiving quality product advice. In several markets we found that sales staff often restrict information on fees and charges and do not provide consumers with the lowest cost product option that matches their needs. For example, in Mexico and Peru we saw sales staff who neglected to offer low-fee savings products available at their institution, while in Ghana sales staff never mentioned the APR of a loan, as they are required by law to do. In Malaysia, insurance sales staff did not use the mandatory Customer Fact Find Form which helps assess customers’ needs and product suitability.

These findings are not surprising to those who study client protection and financial advice, and studies in markets such as the U.S. and India have found similar issues with sales staff. All of this raises a fairly important question of “Can we fix financial advice from frontline bank staff?” Or is the incentive to mis-sell too great and monitoring a sufficient number of individual sales practices too burdensome? This is a discussion I have had with regulators. How do you use policy to drive behavior change in a market? The short answer is that it’s not easy; the long answer is that behaviorally-informed policies, product regulation, and market monitoring tools can help.

But what about the committed leadership of organizations that have signed on to the Smart Campaign (which include providers we have visited during these mystery shopping exercises)? If mystery shopping shows that sales staff do not always keep the customer’s best interests in mind, can we fix this with provider or industry-level changes in sales practices or perhaps through sales staff training? I would like to take advantage of this forum to hear from providers who have implemented policies to fix sales staff misconduct so we can start to document good practices for monitoring sales staff behavior. To help kick things off, here are a few ideas from my side, based on our mystery shopping work:

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> Posted by the Smart Campaign

What are microfinance clients’ thoughts on fair treatment from financial services providers? We explored this question in the context of Benin in a previous post, spotlighting results from the Smart Campaign’s Client Voices project. Now, let’s turn to another country investigated in the project: Pakistan.

The Client Voices project went directly to current and former microfinance clients and asked them about their experiences with their financial providers as well as their thoughts on what constitutes good and bad treatment. The project included qualitative and quantitative research in four diverse markets: Benin, Pakistan, Georgia, and Peru. Research partner Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) began its investigation in March 2014. It conducted surveys, focus groups, in-depth discussions, and photo association exercises.

So, what did we find in Pakistan?

Clients report satisfaction with financial providers, but do not have long-term relationships with them. In Pakistan, a country with a relatively advanced client protection environment, 85 percent of clients reported that they are either very or somewhat satisfied in their borrowing and savings experiences. In fact, only 5 percent of clients reported experiencing a consumer protection problem. (This compares to roughly 13 percent of clients in Benin.) However, clients in Pakistan usually only stay with their provider for a short period. On average, the studied clients had been borrowing with their current provider for just one year. Our research suggests that MFIs are weak at fostering long-term relationships with their clients compared to the other institutions, like savings groups, NGOs, and private schools. When asked about the future, clients indicated they’d rather start fresh with a new provider or discontinue borrowing altogether. Reasons cited included rigid repayment structures, lack of respect/empathy from loan officers, and being publicly disparaged in front of their neighbors.

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> Posted by Center Staff

FI2020 Week is a global conversation on the key actions needed to advance financial inclusion, grounded in the findings of the recently launched FI2020 Progress Report. From November 2-6, 2015, stakeholders around the world are participating in more than 30 events and sharing their voices over social media, with #FI2020.

FI2020 Week is nearing its end! Today is the final day. We’re sad too, but there are still lots of opportunities to get involved, and it’s been a lively four days. Also, we’ll continue to report out on all that happened, so there’s more to come! Along with the in-person events, there are a handful of webinars today, you can submit a call to action, or take part in the far-reaching social media conversations, which we’re capturing on the FI2020 Week site, here.

Since our last recap there have been dozens of events around the world bringing together stakeholders passionate about advancing financial inclusion. Here is a quick look at a few of those events:

Nkosilathi Moyo, CEO, VisionFund Zambia

Nkosilathi Moyo, CEO, VisionFund Zambia

In Lusaka, Zambia, representatives from a variety of organizations, including the Bank of Zambia, came together at an event hosted by VisionFund Zambia to discuss promoting financial inclusion by leveraging savings groups and microfinance institutions. Participating stakeholders identified three major gaps for achieving financial inclusion in the country: lack of a conducive regulatory framework; poor infrastructure; and information asymmetry between different players in the market. Moving forward, the participants agreed on the importance of convening and decided that an FI2020 event should be held each year until 2020. Additionally, the participants agreed, there needs to be a stronger focus on establishing strategic partnerships between mobile network operators, financial service providers, NGOs, and government to develop cost-effective delivery channels that reach people in rural areas.

Forty-five leaders in financial capability, financial literacy, and financial health came together at a roundtable in Washington, D.C. to review a draft paper on innovations in financial capability written by the Center for Financial Inclusion in partnership with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. The event was hosted by the Institute of International Finance. The draft paper focuses on seven principles to re-orient financial capability building toward customer needs and behaviors, with a call to action to all stakeholders—providers, governments, social sector organizations, financial capability providers, and donors—to make this shift.

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> Posted by Gloria Grandolini, Senior Director, Finance and Markets Global Practice, the World Bank Group

FI2020 Week is a global conversation on the key actions needed to advance financial inclusion, grounded in the findings of the recently launched FI2020 Progress Report. From November 2-6, 2015, stakeholders around the world are participating in more than 30 events and sharing their voices over social media, with #FI2020.

Despite significant progress and the increased technical and financial resources devoted to financial inclusion, 2 billion people worldwide still lack access to regulated financial services.

As I read the FI2020 Progress Report and cast my vote on how the world is doing on the five aspects of financial inclusion the FI2020 report covers, I’m reminded of the recent Global Policy Forum of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), where I had rich discussions with AFI members regarding how to meet challenges to expanding access to financial services.

The successes and obstacles which AFI members shared echo many of the points identified in the FI2020 Progress report as shaping the future of financial inclusion.

These hurdles can be distilled into five main challenges:

Financial literacy and capability. Countries must develop financial capability programs to ensure people can make sound financial decisions, select financial products which best fit their needs, and know how to use related channels, such as ATMs or mobile banking. Recent World Bank Group Financial Capability Surveys in Morocco and Mozambique, and studies on remittance services among migrants in France and Italy, show that a lack of awareness prevents people from using suitable financial products and services. Behavioral insights are leading to more effective – and lower cost – financial literacy efforts, which can improve uptake of new accounts and increase savings, including through tailored SMS texts.

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> Posted by Center Staff

FI2020 Week is a global conversation on the key actions needed to advance financial inclusion, grounded in the findings of the recently launched FI2020 Progress Report. From November 2-6, 2015, stakeholders around the world are participating in more than 30 events and sharing their voices over social media, with #FI2020.

FI2020 Week is upon us! Around the world, interactive and participatory events are underway to explore the most important steps to achieving financial inclusion. The range of events features representatives from banks, insurance companies, payment companies, telecommunication companies, policymakers, regulators, NGOs, microfinance institutions, investors, financial inclusion support organizations, financial capability experts, and fintech companies. Across events and participants, FI2020 Week’s focus is the calls to action generated from the guiding prompt: What is an important action needed in your country (or industry segment) to advance financial inclusion?

Below are some of the first comments by financial inclusion leaders. But first, here are some ways you can participate.

Join one of the 12 webinars hosted by Accion’s Channels and Technology team, Andares, AVAL, GSMA, the Helix Institute, IFMR LEAD, Innovations for Poverty Action, LeapFrog Investments, MicroSave, MIX, and the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute.

Check out the findings from the web-based FI2020 Progress Report—and see our high-level summary of messages in this new 8-minute video.

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> Posted by the Smart Campaign

What are microfinance clients’ thoughts on fair treatment from financial services providers? The Smart Campaign’s Client Voices project went to the source and asked clients what they think. Clients were consulted on what they believe constitutes good and bad treatment and their experiences with microfinance providers.

The Client Voices project, a qualitative and quantitative investigation, covers four country markets: Benin, Pakistan, Georgia, and Peru. Today we are releasing the results from Benin and Pakistan, and this post focuses on the results from Benin. Stay tuned for another post on Pakistan soon.

Over the past six years, the Smart Campaign has worked extensively with financial institutions, regulators, networks, rating agencies, and other financial inclusion industry actors to strengthen client protection policies and practices. But until now, we had not heard directly from clients. To embed the process in the local scene and ensure it would be actionable, in each country, the Campaign convened a group of researchers and market leaders to provide local insight and guide the research. In March 2014, the Campaign and its research partner Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) began investigative efforts, which included focus groups, in-depth interviews, photo association exercises, and surveys.

So, what did we find in Benin?

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> Posted by David Tuesta, BBVA, and Sonja E. Kelly, CFI

A Spanish-language version of this post follows the English-language version.

YOU are a beneficiary of data. The materials in those shoes you are wearing were chosen over other materials because of data on cost, durability, and consumer opinion. When you go to the supermarket, you can easily find the chocolate bars because data told company marketers that if the chocolate bars are at the front of the store, consumers will be more likely to buy them. When you use public transportation, the fare you pay is based on data on the cost of the system and estimates of how many riders there will be.

Some people think data is boring. For those people, we say “tough luck.” Data is inevitable. Data provides the information on which economic decisions are based. More data provides more knowledge, information and transparency, helping all economic agents make better decisions, and through this, increasing society`s welfare.

It is no wonder, therefore, that data is critical for financial inclusion, as the financial services industry expands its focus toward harder to reach and lower income populations. The data we have on consumers helps to better understand how quickly financial inclusion is catching on and to tool financial services products appropriately to different market segments. Data at higher levels helps too: information about financial services providers is essential for regulators to monitor the market. Data matters, and it will shape the path of financial inclusion.

Last month at the invitation and of the Inter-American Development Bank we met at the IDB’s Washington, D.C. headquarters with a group of people from many institutions across the financial services industry from large international organizations to small research institutions to global banks to take stock of what data is out there, how much information could be available, how it can best be used, and how data efforts can be improved. There have been strong efforts to improve data from the demand side (customers), such as the Global Findex. Despite many data collection initiatives on the supply side (providers), there are still gaps that could be important for improving and evaluating convenience and
accessibility of potential financial services for those who are unbanked.
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> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

Known as the “hardest interview you’ll have with a client,” the interview you have with a client who is leaving is also, however, one of the most important interviews for a microfinance institution – and likely any organization or company concerned about the costs of client acquisition and retention.

The latest debates on the success of microfinance have encouraged Freedom from Hunger to dig deeper into our repertoire of “impact stories” and critically review the reasons why microfinance clients whose lives were not improving were dropping out, particularly since critics often suggest that microfinance tends to result in negative outcomes among participants.

Since 2007, Freedom from Hunger has been developing and testing an “impact story” methodology to discover client experiences that are representative of the entire clientele of an MFI or even multiple institutions, ranging from success to failure and whatever is happening in between.

Thus far, Freedom from Hunger has collected over 700 client impact stories from 25 local partners located in ten countries throughout Latin America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Six countries were visited a second time after an interval of three or four years to re-interview the impact story participants. This is a significant effort to take qualitative interviews and conduct them with a small random selection of clients and use the information for fairly meticulous research purposes.

With these impact stories, we wanted to answer some basic questions. Why are some clients successful and why are some not? Why do some clients drop out? Are all the reasons for drop-out negative and does the drop-out result in a client being worse off than if they stayed a client? Can we tell if microfinance is to blame for their negative status? What can we do to improve?

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> Posted by Joy Kim, Financial Inclusion Analyst, MIX

What’s better than reading about data? Visualizing it! Pardon us, then, as we offer a few words on CFI and MIX’s new FI2020 Inclusion Visualizer, a powerful tool to manipulate, visualize, and download images of data related to financial inclusion.

The Inclusion Visualizer, harnessing publicly available data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Economist Intelligence Unit, and others, allows users to explore financial inclusion topics across country, region, and income levels. For the adventurous, users are able to customize the range of visualized categories and sub-categories. For example, do you want to know what percent of women with a primary school education or less have their own account at a financial institution? The Visualizer also offers targeted navigation options that focus on key areas, like the financial inclusion infrastructure, the policy environment, and technology.

How to Get the Most Out of the FI2020 Inclusion Visualizer

To get a better understanding of the landscape of financial inclusion around the globe, we suggest you begin by exploring Sections 1A through 1F. One particularly interesting section is Account Ownership (IC) because this metric is, perhaps, the simplest method for measuring financial access. Financial Inclusion Over Time (1B) illustrates changes not only in account ownership, but also with financial activities related to credit, savings, withdrawals, and deposits. As you’ll see, the world has seen growth in all of these activities with the exceptions of withdrawals and deposits, which implies that greater effort is needed on a global scale to increase usage of accounts.

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> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

Visitors to our FI2020 Progress Report on Client Protection will have noted our poor math skills. (This is the section of the report that assesses global progress to date in advancing fair treatment for lower-income financial services clients.) We rated regulators a 6 on consumer protection and providers a 3—and somehow averaged those out to a 5. Our averaging skills make even less sense when you consider the three legs of the client protection stool—providers, regulators, and consumers—and realize that consumers are not even on the radar, rightfully earning a 1 at best in terms of their capacity to advocate on their own behalf. So why the optimism?

We were certainly swayed by the impressive momentum among a range of actors at the global level—including policy and private sector initiatives—toward improved consumer protection. But it’s what happens at the national level that really counts. The World Bank’s 2014 Global Survey on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy reports that some form of legal framework for financial consumer protection is in place in 112 out of 114 economies surveyed. We are not so Pollyannaish as to think that having a legal framework is equivalent to having a regulatory and supervisory system that protects consumers well, but we do think it’s a good step in the right direction.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.

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