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November 14, 2013 in Branchless Banking, Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Client Protection, Events, Financial Education, Financial Inclusion, Financial Inclusion 2020, Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities, Governance, Microfinance, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Smart Campaign, Social Performance, Technology, Women and Financial Inclusion, Youth and Financial Inclusion | Tags: Financial Inclusion 2020, Global Forum, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Smart Campaign, Social Performance Task Force, Truelift | 2 comments
> Posted by Anne H. Hastings, Manager, Microfinance CEO Working Group
As I traveled to London to attend the FI2020 Global Forum, my mind was filled with many thoughts. First was excitement that I had been invited to attend when I was still very much a microfinance practitioner. I was still in the process of adjusting after 17 years living in Haiti struggling to build an institution that would be a model of a client-centric, double bottom line microfinance institution (MFI) committed first and foremost to reaching the very poorest people in Haiti and providing them a pathway to a better life. For me, this meant providing them with a full range of financial and social services. My commitment to these clients had been solidified through my years in Haiti but also by my service on the Smart Campaign Steering Committee and the Board of the Social Performance Task Force and more recently by my role as a practitioner advisor to Truelift.
But now that I was in the plane and on my way, I had taken on a new role: Manager of the Microfinance CEO Working Group, a collaborative effort of the CEOs of eight pioneering global microfinance networks – Accion, FINCA, Freedom From Hunger, Grameen Foundation, Opportunity International, Pro Mujer, VisionFund International, and Women’s World Banking – all dedicated to advocating for more responsible microfinance practices and to instituting the highest standards of performance within their own MFIs. These eight CEOs represent 250 MFIs in 70 countries, serving some 40 million families. Suddenly I had been boosted from deep concerns about the future of poverty in one tiny country of 9.5 million to a preoccupation with the future of MFIs worldwide.
The Forum was a beautiful reflection of the often chaotic financial services marketplace of today where traditional banks, telecoms, retail stores, donors, investors, policymakers, regulators, and MFIs often collide in seeking to capture new markets. In attendance were the CEOs of institutions like Citi and MasterCard, along with several former Governors of Central Banks, technology innovators like the CEO of bKash, executives of insurance companies like MetLife and Swiss Re, Managing Directors of investment companies like Wolfensohn Fund Management, experts in alternative data systems like Cignifi. There were times when I thought maybe I had actually entered the wrong conference! Who were all these people, and what did they have to do with the future of microfinance?
November 7, 2013 in Branchless Banking, Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Events, Financial Education, Financial Inclusion 2020, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Social Performance, Technology, Women and Financial Inclusion | Tags: Alex Counts, Financial Capability, Financial Inclusion 2020, Global Forum, Grameen Foundation, Microcredit Summit Campaign, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Mobile Money, Truelift, Universal Standards for Social Performance Management, Women | 6 comments
> Posted by Alex Counts, President and CEO, Grameen Foundation
The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum was a remarkable and historic convening. I was honored to have been invited to attend and co-facilitate an “ideas to action” roundtable about one of the five parts of the Roadmap to Financial Inclusion .
Immediately after the event I reached out to Elisabeth Rhyne to understand how I could help build on the groundwork laid at the conference. She suggested I write a blog post about my experience. My immediate reaction was that commenting on such a wide-ranging and successful effort was a bit daunting. But I felt it was worth a try.
Dissecting the Term “Financial Inclusion”
I will admit that I have warmed slowly to the language of financial inclusion and financial capability. Are these just new buzzwords for time-tested concepts? (And if so, why use them?) Let’s assume they are new concepts. If so, financial inclusion feels like more of a means than an end. For me, the end is the reduction of poverty and the empowerment of low-income women – so why not focus on those? If having a poor or even middle-class person simply open their first “no frills” bank account is considered a step towards financial inclusion, regardless of how useful or helpful that bank account is, is this banner a lackluster one to rally under? Further, it is not clear to me that the provision of quality financial services through informal financial institutions (however defined) is being properly valued in the financial inclusion agenda. Finally, does making “financial capability” something of a prerequisite for people accessing formal financial services effectively let financial institutions off the hook for meeting clients where they are and designing appropriate products for them?
While my apprehension about these concepts has not entirely dissipated, I emerged from the Global Forum feeling that this campaign for full financial inclusion, at least as defined by CFI, is evolving as a powerful rallying point for a diverse coalition of providers, regulators, technologists, researchers, and activists. The notion of full inclusion is essential. I now see financial capability as a concept that defines the end state when financial education (through whatever means) is done effectively. The Forum probably had a similar impact on many others – helping them travel from a place of confusion or even wariness towards strong alignment and shared purpose.
May 22, 2013 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Social Performance | Tags: Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Social Performance, Social Performance Task Force, Universal Standards of Social Performance Management | Leave a comment
> Posted by Meghan Greene, Manager, Microfinance CEO Working Group
Last June, at the annual Social Performance Task Force meeting in Jordan, the members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group and their lead social performance directors announced their plan to conduct the first large-scale analysis of the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM) in practice, a process we called “beta testing.” You may recall our blog post about the plan last summer.
After a year of work, we’re ready to share our results, as detailed in the new working paper, “Insights from ‘Beta Testing’ the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.”
As many of you know, the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management are a set of 99 “Essential Practices,” organized into six sections:
- Section 1: Define and Monitor Social Goals
- Section 2: Ensure Board, Management, and Employee Commitment to Social Goals
- Section 3: Treat Clients Responsibly (Essentially tracking the Smart Campaign)
- Section 4: Design Products, Services, Delivery Models, and Channels that Meet Clients’ Needs and Preferences
- Section 5: Treat Employees Responsibly
- Section 6: Balance Financial and Social Performance
The Universal Standards are considered applicable to all double bottom line microfinance institutions, and meeting the Standards signifies that an institution has strong social performance management practices. Clearly, implementing all 99 Essential Practices requires careful thought, planning, and execution, but we wanted to learn more about the process of translating the Standards into action. We partnered with more than 20 MFIs to work to answer a number of questions, including: Read the rest of this entry »
May 16, 2013 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Social Performance | Tags: Financial Inclusion, India, M-CRIL, Micro-Credit Ratings International Limited, Microfinance, Sanjay Sinha | 2 comments
> Posted by Center Staff
“The old ideas have become akin to the sixteenth century assertion that the world was flat; yet it did gradually became established that the earth was round after all. Microfinance needs to be rounded too.” – Sanjay Sinha
Sanjay Sinha, founder of Micro-Credit Ratings International Limited (M-CRIL), recently released a candid wake-up call for the industry to move beyond the now outdated microfinance principles initially propagated in the 1990s and employ a more diverse and client-friendly approach. In his note, A Challenge to Flat-Earth Thinking in Microfinance, Sinha cites four tenets he finds especially problematic, contextualizing their adoption and negative implications, and positing how the industry can better move forward in meeting the needs of the poor. Sinha’s note follows:
The intensive promotion of microfinance worldwide as a palliative if not a panacea for poverty started in the mid‐1990s with initiatives like the establishment of CGAP, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and various national-level apex agencies often sponsored by multilateral or bilateral development agencies like the World Bank and the regional development banks. Led by CGAP, as the main international technical agency for the support of microfinance, a strong message on the principles of good microfinance practice was propagated worldwide. These principles included (but were not limited to) the following:
- MFIs must adopt the principle of “zero tolerance of delinquency” in order to minimize default.
- There must be a continuous effort to limit operating costs in order to deliver microfinance at the lowest possible price to low income clients.
- Microfinance services must be offered by specialist MFIs in order to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest that confuse MFI managements, staff or borrowers.
- MFIs should focus on growth in order to maximize outreach to the vast numbers of financially excluded families across the globe.
This note argues that while these principles may have been appropriate at the time when they were formulated (in the mid‐1990s) their time passed a few years ago and the entrenchment of these principles as microfinance orthodoxy is now damaging the development objective – financial inclusion to serve the needs of poor and low income people, and facilitating income enhancement – for which the microfinance movement was propagated. Therefore, the time has come for a concerted effort to swing the pendulum back to equilibrium.
March 29, 2013 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Protection, Financial Inclusion, Investing in Inclusive Finance, Microfinance, Smart Campaign, Social Performance | Tags: Blue Orchard, Certification, CGAP, Client Protection, Client Protection Principles, Incofin, Investing in Microfinance, Microfinance, Oikocredit, PIIF, Smart Assessments, Social Performance, Social Performance Task Force, The Smart Campaign, Universal Standards of Social Performance Management | Leave a comment
> Posted by Antonique Koning and Kate McKee, Microfinance Specialist and Senior Adviser, CGAP
The following post was originally published on the CGAP Blog.
Microfinance investors are now openly discussing responsible investment, including balancing returns and how to reduce risks of market saturation and over-indebtedness, more than ever before. Investors agree it’s time for action. At the mid-year Social Investor Roundtable, convening of the Sangam Group (CEOs of the ten largest MIVs) and annual Development Finance Institutions (DFI) consultation on responsible finance last month they agreed on a “to-do” list of six concrete actions:
1. Join the discussion on balanced returns: Many participating investors had signed the Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF). Most agree that the balanced returns principle is the most difficult to pin down. The topic came up frequently: How much is too much, when it comes to prices and profits in the sector? Several MIV CEOs asserted that their commercial business model was the most effective way to drive responsible financial inclusion at scale. Eyebrows around the room shot up when one fund manager stated the target return of his fund: 20 percent. Other fund managers disagreed with the philosophy that such returns are consistent with responsible practice and desirable client outcomes. “We’re fooling ourselves” to suggest that there are few trade-offs between the financial and social bottom lines, they said. By policy some funds agree to take a lower return in the short run if it translates into better rural outreach or services like deposits that clients need and want. Sangam MIVs formed a working group on balanced returns and will feed their perspectives into related discussions led by the PIIF and Social Performance Task Force (SPTF). If you’re an investor, you should join one of these processes and help the search for a pragmatic but meaningful understanding on balanced returns.
2. Use the new Lender Guidelines on avoiding over-indebtedness. Market saturation was another hot topic: What can and should investors do about risks of market saturation and over-indebtedness? Investors in the AvOID Working Group have developed a Lender Code of Practice, which outlines steps investors should take in market analysis, due diligence, monitoring, and governance engagement. The Code has now been finalized and integrated in the PIIFs. Your investment organization can benefit by integrating the guidelines into your processes.
3. Support country-level research on market saturation and over-indebtedness: In addition to guidance that individual investors can use to rein in over-indebtedness, investors are also working together on analyzing such risks at the country or market level. DFIs and MIVs have supported this work in countries such as Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Kyrgysz Republic. Most recently, Blue Orchard, Incofin, and Oikocredit stepped up to jointly fund an innovative methodology in Cambodia that combined country-level proxies for market penetration, indicators of MFI lending practices, and surveys and qualitative research on borrower indebtedness and related factors. Findings were presented at the Social Investor Roundtable and will be formally released later this month. Sangam members committed funding to replicate the study elsewhere. Other investors can join and support expansion of this important work in additional markets.
> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research and Evaluation Specialist, Freedom from Hunger
Listening to the poor without preconceptions has generated remarkable insights about their desires, challenges, and capabilities, with significant implications for designing programs that more effectively meet their needs. What about listening to those who talk to clients every day – the front line staff of microfinance institutions?
To complement direct client surveys, Freedom from Hunger undertook a study called Voices from the Frontlines: A Research Project Focused on Listening to Microfinance Credit Officers in order to listen to the frontline workers of financial service providers who use the village-banking model to provide financial and non-financial services to groups of poor women. Freedom from Hunger worked with five microfinance institutions to conduct this research: CRECER in Bolivia; Confianza, PRISMA, and Finca in Peru; and Alsol in Mexico. Almost 200 interviews and focus-group discussions were conducted with credit officers, clients, and supervisors. We wanted to answer five questions:
- What motivates credit officers?
- What is the state of the relationship between the credit officer and the client?
- What can we learn from credit officers about the people they serve?
- How can we better support credit officers?
- How faithfully are programs, policies, and procedures carried out by credit officers?
We found credit officers of these five institutions to be primarily socially motivated; they work for these organizations “to help people.” Their relationships with clients are crucial for client as well as organizational success. For example, the relationship creates both mutual satisfaction of clients and credit officers; on the other hand, the relationship can create huge risks of dissatisfaction and drop-out when the relationship is weak or falters for any reason. Therefore, these relationships can make or break client recruitment and retention. Product attributes and relationships with credit officers are intertwined. For example, a strong relationship between the client and the credit officer can overshadow poorly designed or less competitive products and services; however, poorly designed products and services also strain the relationship between the client and the credit officer. Products and services that respond to the clients’ needs better are an aid to building a stronger relationship between the client and the credit officer. The client’s relationship with the credit officer therefore deserves more attention than it normally receives when evaluating client satisfaction and outcomes.
January 8, 2013 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Client Protection, Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Resources, Smart Campaign, Social Performance | Tags: Banana Skins, CGAP, Client Focus, Client Perspective, Client Protection Principles, Financial Literacy, Ghana, Jessica Schicks, Microfinance, Microfinance Gateway, Microinsurance Network, Overindebtedness, Risk, Smart Campaign | Leave a comment
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
There are endless ways to measure the successes of a given year. Number of clients reached. Total new stakeholder endorsement. Amount of capital invested… Though when assessing almost anything, it’s important to think holistically and not be biased by the numbers. That said, I think I can speak for most of the Center in saying that we are excited to share that several CFI-affiliated publications were among the Microfinance Gateway’s Most Popular Publications of 2012. No small feat considering 546 new resources were added to the Gateway this past year. Here’s a brief listing of the CFI pubs that made this top cut:
Over-Indebtedness in Microfinance: An Empirical Analysis of Related Factors on the Borrower Level
This paper by Jessica Schicks analyses the over-indebtedness of microborrowers in Ghana, examining its relationship with poverty, adverse shocks, loan returns, and financial literacy. In defining over-indebtedness, the paper adopts a client perspective, taking into account clients’ repayment struggles and the sacrifices they make to fulfill payment obligations. Some of the paper’s findings are the following: Read the rest of this entry »
December 3, 2012 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Client Protection, Events, Financial Inclusion, Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities, Microfinance, Social Performance | Tags: Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities, Handicap International, PWDs, United Nations | Leave a comment
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
Today, people all around the world are celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities. And, whether the focus is financial or any other type of inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs), we here at CFI would be remiss if we didn’t join in the festivities.
The International Day has been observed since 1992, and encompasses activities around the globe. The United Nations, which functions as the principal promoter, features an online list of events being held by governments, UN agencies, organizations, and communities in Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The impressively global – and inclusive – Day brings awareness to disability issues, acknowledges the integral role of persons with disabilities in society, and further promotes full inclusion for PWDs. The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”
November 6, 2012 in Center for Financial Inclusion, Client Focus, Client Protection, Events, Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Social Performance | Tags: AFMIN, Alex Counts, CGAP, Client Protection, Grameen Foundation, Microfinance, Microfinance CEO Working Group, Social Performance, Social Performance Task Force, Uganda, Universal Standards of Social Performance Management, VisionFund International | Leave a comment
> Posted by Mary Jo Kochendorfer, Manager, Social Performance Management Center, Grameen Foundation
This post by Mary Jo Kochendorfer was originally published on the Progress out of Poverty blog. Progress out of Poverty is an initiative of the Grameen Foundation that assists microfinance institutions and other organizations measure and track the poverty levels of groups and individuals, and in turn better manage their programs.
This past summer, the microfinance industry recently celebrated a milestone when the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) released the Universal Standards of Social Performance Management (USSPM) after a worldwide consensus-building effort. After much work and collaboration, the microfinance industry, by way of the SPTF, came together and put forth standards which outline the best practices for monitoring and managing social performance. The SPTF defines social performance as “the effective translation of an institution’s social mission into practice in line with accepted social values.” Following the SPTF annual meeting back in June, regional microfinance networks have also prioritized social performance in their agendas.
Last month, the Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN) hosted its annual conference in Kampala, Uganda to discuss “the State-of-the-Practice of Social Performance Management in Africa.” While there, I participated in a panel on Poverty Measurement Tools along with colleagues from Caurie-Microfinance, VisionFund International and CGAP.
>Posted by Danielle Donza
Several years ago the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds (CMEF) created a small booklet containing governance guidelines for microfinance institutions. The booklet quickly became a minor classic: it was translated into multiple languages and dozens of MFIs used it as a guide to operations for their own boards.
Then came the 2008 global financial crisis and a number of market-specific microfinance crises in several countries. These crises served to highlight the need for strong, mission-led governance by MFIs. Lessons from these events did not alter the core principles found in the original Guidelines, but they revealed a need for greater attention to areas such as risk management and social performance. In response to these lessons, CMEF is releasing a revised version of the guidelines, “The Practice of Corporate Governance in Microfinance Institutions.” Read the rest of this entry »