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> Posted by the Smart Campaign
Smart assessments. You know, a tool to help MFIs diagnose if their institutional practices adequately account for the well-being of their clients and can help them towards becoming ‘Client Protection Certified?’ We’ve written about them through the years (The Dawn of Client Protection Assessments in India, Straight Talk on Client Protection – Aggressive Sales Techniques, Mapping the Numbers of the Smart Campaign, etc.) but this is our very first video on the subject. Smart Assessments examine an MFI’s implementation of the client protection principles, taking the institution through a process of internal review to identify strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately opportunities to enhance business practices around client protection.
In the video, Smart Campaign Lead Specialist Sergio Guzmán offers an overview of assessments, discussing the client protection principles, how assessments benefit MFIs, what the assessment process looks like, common client protection challenges, and next steps for interested institutions.
As Sergio mentions, to date the Smart Campaign has trained a total of 29 lead assessors and 45 support assessors, who have conducted roughly 75 assessments around the world. For more information – including the self-assessment Getting Started Questionnaire – head over to the Smart Campaign website. And stay tuned to our newly launched Smart Campaign YouTube channel for the release of more videos on client protection in microfinance.
> Posted by David Grace, Managing Partner, David Grace & Associates
As noted in a recent blog post by Beth Rhyne of CFI, supervisors need to upgrade their skills if they are going to keep pace with an additional 2-3 billion people over the next decade potentially entering financial services for the first time.
The financial inclusion movement is taking shape at the same time that banking supervisors globally are searching for more “forward-looking” indicators to help them detect early problems in institutions and financial systems. Whether it’s the subprime crisis in the United States and Europe, or over-indebtedness problems in Bosnia and Southern India, many of the early warning signs were evident in consumer abuses before they showed up on the balance sheets and capital ratios of institutions. As such, one of the best avenues for supervisors to improve their quantitative-focused prudential oversight is to start putting greater emphasis on qualitative-based consumer protection indicators.
Through a World Bank-sponsored program in the Eastern Caribbean to improve the quality of supervision of non-bank financial institutions, the Smart Campaign inspired consumer protection supervision to become integrated into new prudential examination procedures.
> Posted by Daniel Rozas, Independent Microfinance Consultant
The following post was originally published on the CGAP Blog.
Last month the Smart Campaign launched its certification program. For those who care about client protection, this is an important and welcome milestone in what has been an impressive journey, which has included a broad spectrum of activities by funders to promote client protection.
In the first post in this series, Philippe Serres describes a project by the French development organization AFD and the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) to support implementation of the Client Protection Principles, including support for MFIs seeking to undergo the Smart Certification process itself. Notably, this support comes alongside client protection requirements that funders like AFD, Proparco, and FMO have been incorporating into their financing agreements with MFIs. Thus, not only are MFIs being supported in their bid to strengthen client protection, they are increasingly required to do so by their funders.
In many respects, this is an exercise in self-regulation of client protection practices. The arrival of Smart Certification presents a unique opportunity to take these efforts to the next level and apply this self-regulation to the entire microfinance market in Cambodia and beyond.
> Posted by Mary Ellen Iskenderian and Rupert Scofield, Co-Chairs of the Microfinance CEO Working Group
As co-chairs of the Microfinance CEO Working Group, we are pleased to share with you a joint statement from the Working Group in support of the recently announced Smart Campaign Client Protection Certification Program. Certification will offer public recognition for institutions that meet adequate standards of care in appropriately protecting microfinance clients, as verified by an independent evaluation. It marks a clear step forward in ensuring the microfinance industry puts the treatment of its clients first.
Since we began meeting in early 2011, many of the Working Group’s discussions have focused on the fundamental question of what the microfinance industry requires to flourish in the future. We believe that client protection is central to the answer. It is common sense – and good business practice – that a fair and respectful relationship with clients is required to develop trust, reduce risk, and serve them appropriately. As leaders of FINCA and Women’s World Banking, we are especially concerned with the fair treatment of women clients, the traditional backbone of the microfinance industry, who are often more vulnerable to exploitation.
> Posted by the Smart Campaign
The Smart Campaign is proud to announce that today marks the official program launch of Client Protection Certification! Managed by the Smart Campaign, the Client Protection Certification program gives providers of financial services for low-income people the ability to demonstrate that they take adequate care to protect their clients.
Certification – created both for and by the industry – represents an important milestone in the evolution of microfinance as a uniquely client-focused portion of the global financial sector. “There has been widespread demand for mechanisms that protect microfinance clients. This is the first program that verifies client protection publicly,” said Smart Campaign Managing Director Isabelle Barres.
The Client Protection Certification Program contains a rigorous set of standards against which institutions are evaluated. The standards address the client protection elements inherent to receiving fair treatment while doing business with a financial institution. You might remember our covering some of these standards and indicators in our recent Straight Talk on Client Protection blog series.
> Posted by the Smart Campaign
The tool – available for download on the Smart Campaign website – is designed to help microfinance institutions incorporate the Client Protection Principles into their compulsory group trainings (CGT). These trainings are group-level customer education programs MFIs use to interact with and screen prospective clients. CGTs are conducted by institutions practicing village banking methodology, and Grameen-style Joint Liability Group methodology, prior to the client group’s obtaining credit. The trainings are often the first formal interaction between the prospective clients and the MFI.
> Posted by Vanesa Sanchez, Senior Analyst, Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 “Microscope on Microfinance” benchmarking study – the sixth of the EIU’s annual microfinance markets assessments – features new indicators on responsible finance and client protection that cover two of the seven Smart Campaign Client Protection Principles. Transparency in pricing looks at the laws, regulations, and practices in place for interest-rate transparency among MFIs. And Dispute resolution evaluates whether a country has mechanisms for the timely resolution of disagreements, at a reasonable cost, between microfinance lenders and borrowers. These indicators were incorporated to recognize the growing importance of client protection and financial responsibility for the sustainable growth of the microfinance industry.
An empirical analysis of the Microscope by the World Bank’s research department found that after controlling for other potentially influencing factors, both of these indicators were positively correlated with market penetration measures, for example microcredit borrowers as a percentage of the country’s population or of the poor population. These indicators also correlate positively with the average loan portfolio size of MFIs at the country level. In other words, larger and more developed microfinance markets are also more likely to have consumer protections in place.
The following post, written by Jeanette Thomas, was originally published on the CGAP Microfinance Blog. It reinforces the importance of appropriate product design in achieving full financial inclusion. The Smart Campaign, which is about to launch its Client Protection Certification Program, includes a Client Protection Principle for appropriate product design and delivery as informed by client characteristics, needs, and feedback.
Twenty-two million households in Mexico are middle or low income, and only half of them have a bank account. It’s not that they lack access. Most have had a bank account, but closed it after fees and commissions drained their balances. They are not so much “unbanked” as “de-banked”—they have voluntarily opted out of having a bank account because the banks don’t offer what they need.
Earlier this year CGAP, in partnership with Bancomer, commissioned IDEO.org, the non-profit arm of the California firm known for its human-centered design methodology, to create a savings product that would meet the needs of low income Mexicans. Bancomer, a large Mexican bank, wants to reach more people by offering products that will work for the low income market. This video tells the story of how the team developed products that meet the needs of poor clients, while also making the business case for the bank.
> Posted by the Smart Campaign
The Smart Campaign is proud to introduce a new interactive webpage, “Campaign by Numbers.” The newly launched resource – housed on the Smart Campaign website – actively shares the Campaign’s efforts to embed Client Protection Principles into the culture and operations of the microfinance industry.
“Campaign by Numbers” consists of an interactive world map that allows the user to navigate across continents and countries to access country-specific information on Smart Campaign activities. The map currently contains information for 138 countries. When the user selects one of these countries, they are presented with both the in-country endorsers of the Campaign and the financial institutions that have undergone client protection Smart Assessments. For many countries, the map also offers related tools and resources that may be of interest or use, such as Smart Notes and Client Protection Libraries.