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Strong board leadership can help reduce a financial service provider’s vulnerability to external shocks and enhance its resilience.

> Posted by Paul DiLeo, Founder and Managing Director of Grassroots Capital Management and Governance Expert for the Africa Board Fellows Program

30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of an Africa Board Fellowship blog series spotlighting the experiences of participants and reflections from industry experts.

In the previous blog in this series, we reframed external challenges as a “normal” part of doing business for financial service providers (FSPs) targeting the base of the pyramid. And based on insights from Africa Board Fellows, we looked at specific ways board members can anticipate and even shape the challenging aspects of their operating environment. However, while most boards have more potential for external influence than they often exercise, there are always external factors that cannot be controlled. Boards must also continually focus on reducing the FSP’s vulnerability and enhancing its resilience31479737602_1ed7a2ba32_k

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Strong FSP boards prepare for and respond to external shocks as a rule, not an exception.

30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of a blog series spotlighting the perspectives and experiences of CEOs and board members of financial institutions, as well as industry experts, who have participated in CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship program.

> Posted by Paul DiLeo, Founder and Managing Director of Grassroots Capital Management and Governance Expert for the Africa Board Fellows Program

Far from being “extraordinary and rare,” challenging environments are a “normal” part of business for financial service providers (FSPs) targeting low-income populations. We tend to think that external environment challenges are extraordinary events that cannot be predicted or are too varied and diverse to prepare for—and therefore are best confronted as they arise. What do currency devaluations, deteriorating security, political interference or regulatory upheavals have in common? Can we can plan for them all and prepare effective responses in advance? Do responses need to be tailored to each circumstance?

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30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of a blog series spotlighting the perspectives and experiences of CEOs and board members of financial institutions, as well as industry experts, who have participated in CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship program.

Africa Board Fellowship graphic harvest illustration

By Danielle Piskadlo, Director, CFI

In recent years, some African countries have experienced slower economic growth and less stability in their currencies. This deterioration in macroeconomic conditions has presented challenges for financial service providers (FSPs) seeking to serve the base of the pyramid and improve financial inclusion. Some ways macroeconomic conditions impact FSPs include:

  • Higher operational expenses (e.g., imported IT equipment and software; office leases and technical services invoiced in foreign currency)
  • Increase in non-performing loans as small businesses have had fewer growth opportunities
  • Higher cost of funds (both deposits and debt)
  • Reduced access to debt from international and local providers
  • Decrease in revenue or tighter margins

We’re talking to Africa Board Fellowship (ABF) alumni to share their experiences dealing with deteriorating macroeconomic conditions.
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30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of a blog series spotlighting the perspectives and experiences of CEOs and board members of financial institutions, as well as industry experts, who have participated in CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship program.

ABF Fellows discussion at table

ABF Fellows group discussion. November 2016.

> Posted by Danielle Piskadlo, Director, CFI

Few countries have escaped socio-political unrest, conflict or periods of crisis. As the consequences of such events can be severe for both financial service providers and their customers, it behooves every board and CEO to consider how they might prepare themselves to respond when the political environment around them deteriorates.

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100 Certified Seal Final - IBarres 4-24-2018Adapting Smart Certification for Digital Financial Services

>Posted by Alex Taylor, Marketing and Community Outreach Manager, Smart Campaign

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts exploring the impact of Smart Certification on the financial inclusion industry.

Since launching Smart Certification in 2013, we’ve witnessed rapid changes in the financial inclusion space driven by digitization of financial services and fragmentation of traditional business models. Nearly $100 billion in investment has flown into the global fintech market since 2010, creating an explosion of digital innovations and provider models. Our analysis of the Global Findex data shows that recent gains in inclusion have been largely driven by the rise of mobile money and digital payments.

Digital financial technology is central to making financial products more accessible to underserved people around the world. This is an exciting moment for digital finance, and an equally important for time for client protection. The industry has the opportunity to marry the client-centric approach embraced by so many fintechs and the industry-accepted consumer protection standards to develop quality products, build trust, and encourage usage. The Smart Campaign will leverage its experience to help lead the charge on this.

As we celebrate 100 Smart Certifications, we look forward to the next 100. Looking to the future requires defining responsible practices and standards given the technological advances that allow nearly instant access to credit, payments, savings, and insurance. The standards and the certification program must become more agile, mirroring the fast pace of change. We envision an adaptable approach that takes into consideration the product and client delivery mechanism, as well as the provider’s function in the value chain. The flexibility of this framework could eventually allow any type of provider to seek certification, but the process will begin with a focus on digital lenders and expand to encompass additional business models on a demand-driven basis.
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Woman holds POS device

Demand for credit in Africa exceeds supply, despite the rise in mobile money. Yet start-ups, growing daily in number, are at risk of accelerating over-indebtedness, by supplying credit to clients without conducting appropriate repayment capacity analysis. Digital lenders need to understand the risks of over-indebtedness from a client perspective, and algorithms need to evolve to take this into account. Regulation also must guide good practice for fintech digital lenders.
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The following is part of a blog series spotlighting views from participants in the Africa Board Fellowship (ABF).

> Posted by Danielle Piskadlo, Director, Investing in Inclusive Finance, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Embed from Getty Images

Two experiences with interest rate caps – in Kenya and Zambia – demonstrate the power of political forces to shape financial inclusion policies and may hold lessons for MSME lenders in other countries.

In a recent unpublished study, the Partnership for Responsible Financial Inclusion (formerly the Microfinance CEO Working Group) examined commonalities in the origins of interest rate caps in these two countries. In both cases, signs were clear that the general public was upset about the current state of loans and interest rates. Approaching elections increased the will among political leaders to make regulatory changes that would appeal to the public.

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Designing a mobile money product that meets client needs while bringing tangible benefits to the financial institution

> Posted by Habiba Balogun, Habiba Balogun Consulting

The following is part of a blog series spotlighting views from participants in the Africa Board Fellowship (ABF). For more from Habiba, an interview with her can be found here.

With over 160 million mobile phones in use in Nigeria out of a population of 180 million, high mobile penetration is a major factor in the country in achieving seamless payments.

In 2016, at Accion Microfinance Bank (AMfB) in Nigeria, where I serve as a board member, we introduced a mobile banking product called Brighta 143. The product is USSD (unstructured supplementary service data), so it runs on both basic and smart phones, and it has shown great potential to expand financial inclusion as well as bring benefits to our institution.

But of course, rolling out a successful mobile money product is hardly straightforward.
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We hope reading this post is just one of many activities you undertake today that acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women. This International Women’s Day, we turned to a few of the women of CFI to share their thoughts on the gender gap facing lower income women around the world and ways to shift the balance in their favor.
 

Deborah Drake

Deborah Drake says, “International Women’s Day gives us a chance to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice women make every day for their families. It also highlights the challenges involved in giving women the opportunity for economic empowerment and the ability to make choices, including financial decisions for themselves and their families.” (As Vice President of CFI’s Investing in Inclusive Finance Program, Deborah leads the Africa Board Fellowship Program and the Financial Inclusion Equity Council.)
 
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> Posted by Lizzy Bolze, Project Specialist, Investing in Inclusive Finance, CFI

Digital trends in the African financial inclusion sector are evolving quickly. With the entrance of fintech startups and a more tech savvy client base, the role of corporate governance is more important than ever. As David Kombanie, Board Member of VisionFund put it: “Disruptive innovations are here with us. It’s change or die.”

Kombanie, along with more than 50 CEOs, board members, investors, fintech leaders, and regulators from Africa’s financial inclusion industry, engaged in a peer-learning exchange roundtable, Governing in a Digital World. This video provides an overview of discussions and key takeaways from the participants:

Governance for Financial Service Providers in a Digital World

The roundtable’s peer-to-peer exchanges provided three important governance considerations and recommendations for the boards of financial service providers (FSPs) as they evolve with the digital world:

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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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.