> Posted by Karin Malmberg, PIIF Manager, PRI

How do institutional investors in inclusive finance ensure that their investee institutions manage their social as well as financial performance? How do these investors contribute to the sustainable growth of the industry? And, perhaps most importantly how do they ensure that end clients are fairly treated and adequately protected?

The Report on Progress in Inclusive Finance 2014 by the Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF) Initiative addresses these questions, analyzing data submitted by inclusive finance investors on their responsible investment practices.

The results are encouraging. Fund managers and other investors investing directly into retail institutions look at responsible finance issues at the selection stage of the investment process. For example, 94 percent measure and include the social performance of retail institutions alongside financial criteria when making investment decisions, and 90 percent include client protection measures in their investment policies.

However, these figures drop when we look at improving performance in these areas. The Client Protection Principles are universally accepted among investors but fewer encourage implementation by retail institutions. For instance, 63 percent systematically include client protection in covenants in loan agreements or in shareholder agreements. Fewer than half incentivize investee retail institutions to track social performance. Additionally, few investors encourage their investees to take part in collaborative industry initiatives, with the exception of the Smart Campaign.

The path from microcredit to full financial inclusion is another area for improvement. While the majority say that they support the provision of services beyond microcredit, only 50 percent collect data on whether voluntary savings products are provided by investee retail institutions, and 33 percent on whether voluntary insurance products are provided.

The governance of retail institutions was highlighted recently by the Center for Financial Inclusion and The MasterCard Foundation as they launched the Africa Board Fellowship program for board members and CEOs of microfinance institutions. This, too, is an area where investors have a role to play. The PIIF data shows that 85 percent assess the board composition of investee retail institutions at the pre-investment stage, and 73 percent assess board compensation. These figures drop at the post-investment stage however.

For more detail on investors approaches to these areas and others, such as fair treatment and transparency, download the full report here.

We invite investors and other stakeholders to use this report and the individual Transparency Reports which detail the responses of each participating investor, to learn about what their clients, intermediaries, and peers are doing.

We also encourage more investors to use the PIIF and accompanying reporting framework and assessment to evaluate their own practices and demonstrate their progress to the industry.

The Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF) were developed by investors and provide guidance on how to address these questions. The PIIF were launched in 2011 and currently have 50 signatories including pension funds, insurance companies, development finance institutions, foundations, and fund managers. The PIIF are hosted and managed by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative.

Have you read?

Impact Investing Landscape: Trends to Watch

The Business Case for Investing in Financial Inclusion

Microfinance Equity Investing: Different Context, Similar Issues