> Posted by Center Staff

Microfinance client harvesting rice at her farm in Mawlamying, Mon State, Myanmar. Image credit: Accion.

About this time of year, before we launch into the promise and the chaos of January, it is helpful to reflect on the past 12 months.

Like many of you, CFI in 2016 can be characterized by change. We released the first reports from CFI Research Fellows. We established a new priority area for the Center in financial capability and financial health. The Smart Campaign pivoted towards digital financial services. We partnered with the Institute of International Finance (IIF) to examine how banks in emerging markets are driving financial inclusion. The Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC) distilled how MFIs and other mission-driven organizations can preserve double bottom lines in initial public offerings (IPOs). We said so long to some long-time CFIers. We said welcome to some new ones.

Amid all the new initiatives, 2016 was also a year of deepening efforts in many legacy initiatives at CFI. The year saw significant progress in the Africa Board Fellowship Program, the Banana Skins report series, the Global Microscope report series, the Governance Working Group, Financial Inclusion Week, the Harvard Business School – Accion Program on Leadership in Inclusive Finance, the Microfinance CEO Working Group, and Smart Certification.

We thank you for your support this year on these and on all our efforts to advance financial inclusion around the world. To recap the year, here’s a quick rundown of CFI in 2016 in pictures. And Happy New Year!

The Smart Campaign Breaks New Ground

This year marked a shift in strategy for the Smart Campaign, with a greater emphasis on client protection issues emerging from new technologies and effecting change at the national level. The Campaign examined the client protection risks in the provision of financial services via agent banking and digital credit. It also worked with the government of Myanmar to enshrine the client protection principles in the country’s new microfinance policy and with MFIN to develop a Grievance Redressal Mechanism Framework for the microfinance network in India.

My Turn to Speak: Voices of Microfinance Clients in Benin, Pakistan, Peru, and Georgia
The Smart Campaign released the results from the Client Voices project, a four-country research investigation that directly asked clients about their experiences with financial providers and their thoughts on what constitutes good and bad treatment. The release included a main synthesis report, as well as the country reports from Benin, Pakistan, Peru, and Georgia.

The 11th Annual Harvard Business School – Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance

In the spring, 69 financial inclusion leaders from 31 countries arrived at Harvard Business School’s campus to attend the HBS-Accion Program. Discussions touched on cooperation between financial providers and regulators, the relative merits of differing impact investing approaches, and fintech innovation, among other topics.


A Change in Behavior: Innovations in Financial Capability
A Change in Behavior assessed the landscape of financial capability-building interventions across the globe, with a special focus on Mexico and India. Highlighting an industry trend in its early stages, the project explored innovations that focus on triggering positive customer behaviors, especially at critical decision-making moments, such as when signing up for and using financial products, or when putting money aside to meet savings goals.

The Business of Financial Inclusion: Insights from Banks in Emerging Markets

Sexy start-ups and disruptive innovators often occupy the spotlight, but traditional banks are making enormous contributions to banking the unbanked. That’s one of the major takeaways of The Business of Financial Inclusion, which shines a spotlight on the role of banks as leaders in financial inclusion and discusses their specific strategies related to technology, data, financial capability, partnerships, and other issues.

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Image credit: ESAF Microfinance

Financial Inclusion Week 2016

This year’s Financial Inclusion Week saw over 45 partners and contributing organizations across 19 countries driving conversation through events, and hundreds of individuals sharing insights on social media. There are too many exemplary events and happenings from the week to spotlight here, but on the Financial Inclusion Week website you can find a full breakdown of all the week’s events and happenings.

Strategy Is the Biggest Banana Skin
In the rapidly-changing financial inclusion sector of today, the ability to design and implement an effective strategy is the biggest concern of providers, the latest Banana Skins report uncovered. The report ranked the top perceived risks facing those providing financial services to un/under-served people in emerging markets, including microfinance institutions, commercial banks, technology companies, and telcos.

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Strengthening Microfinance Governance in Africa

It was a big year for the Africa Board Fellowship (ABF) program, graduating the second and third cohorts of fellows, and initiating the fourth cohort. Thus far, the program has convened close to 125 CEOs and board members of 43 institutions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

How to IPO Successfully & Responsibly

This Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC) paper examines two 2016 IPOs in India, Equitas and Ujjivan, and how they were able to stay true to their social missions. The report examines practices surrounding company bylaws, shareholder agreements, company policies, and strong boards, among others.

The First CFI Research Fellows Reports

In 2016 we saw the release of the first reports from the CFI Research Fellows program, Government-to-Person Transfers: On Ramp to Financial Inclusion? by Guy Stuart, and Emerging SMEs: Secrets to Growing from Micro to Small Enterprise by Christy Stickney. In the months ahead we look forward to the release of the final two reports from the first cohort of CFI Fellows.

Global Microscope 2016: The Enabling Environment for Financial Inclusion

The 2016 Global Microscope showed that essential policies for bringing financial services to low-income groups are now widespread in the developing world. Nine of the 12 financial inclusion indicators covered in the Global Microscope benchmarking index improved globally in 2016, building on gains which have been made during the last decade. Even so, many countries have not moved significantly beyond basic policies, and greater focus is needed.

Image credit: BRAC

Smart Certification Reaches Several Milestones

This year many financial institutions around the world successfully demonstrated that they treat their clients with adequate care and achieved Smart Certification, including BRAC Bangladesh (pictured above). To date there have been over 70 institutions certified which collectively serve roughly 40 million clients.

Have you read?

2016 Global Microscope Highlights Gains in Financial Inclusion, Led by India; Digitization on the Rise

The Business of Financial Inclusion: Banks that Partner Go Farther and Deeper

Client-Centricity at Scale: The BRAC Smart Certification Journey