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BRAC Uganda shares strategy and sustainability insights from its transition from an MFI to a bank.

By Emily Coppel and Isabel Whisson, BRAC

Woman holds carton of eggs

©BRAC/Alison Wright

BRAC Uganda Microfinance is pursuing a shift in its regulatory status that will allow it to broaden the landscape of financial services it provides to Uganda’s rural poor.

BRAC, the largest microfinance provider in Uganda, currently serves more than 200,000 predominantly rural, female clients, through more than 150 branches across nearly every district in the country. In the nine years since the microfinance company was established, BRAC has provided microloans to poor women (a basic loan ranges from US $55 – $1,400), and small enterprise loans for male and female business owners (from US $1,400 – $10,000). Its current portfolio is around US $45 million. This year, BRAC submitted its application to transform into a bank. In Uganda, it was a Tier 4 institution, a category for unregulated credit-only NGOs, and money lenders. After the transformation, BRAC will become a regulated Credit Institution, under Tier 2, allowing it to expand its suite of services for clients – most notably, to savings accounts.

The process of transitioning to a regulated institution in Uganda is a lengthy one, and requires the organization to strategically analyze its goals and pro-poor model. Much can be learned from this process that can inform others considering a similar transformation to expand services for clients. As with any significant change, the organization is already facing new challenges that must be carefully and creatively navigated so as not to alienate its customer base.
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> Posted by Stephanie Dolan, Principal Specialist, Investing in Inclusive Finance

How do you recognize or quantify the time and effort that a non-profit’s founder has poured into an organization? Do you reward a non-profit’s board members for their countless hours donated to shaping the institution’s mission, and if so, how? What role does the staff have in determining the success of an organization? What skills and qualities are necessary in a manager, and what should be done if his skills set no longer meets the needs of an institution?

Such questions normally circulate beneath the surface at any operating non-profit. However, they truly come to light during periods of institutional transition, for example, during transformation to a for-profit or a merger of organizations. As these questions are often intensely personal, they have the potential to become, on the one hand, a bitter point of contention or, on the other, an opportunity for frank discussion and collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Kelley Mesa

The USAID Speakers Corner online discussion featuring Elisabeth Rhyne and Deborah Drake starts tomorrow. They will be exploring the challenges presented by microfinance institutions during periods of transition. Participants are encouraged to share their own experiences, questions, and comments.

To learn more and register for the discussion, click here »

> Posted by Kelley Mesa

During periods of transition at MFIs – whether it be transformations, mergers, or acquisitions – institutional stakeholders often encounter challenges with organizational governance and the alignment (or misalignment) of interests among founders, management, board members, staff, donors, and investors. Such issues not only complicate an already-difficult transition, but also sometimes delay or even derail the entire process.

The Center’s Elisabeth Rhyne and Deborah Drake will be hosting a USAID Speakers Corner online discussion from April 13-15 to explore the challenges presented by transitions. Participants are encouraged to share their own experiences, questions, and comments.

To learn more and register for the discussion, click here »

To read learn more about aligning interests during MFI transformations, check out the Center’s recent paper »

> Posted by Kelley Mesa

Personal interests are often at stake as microfinance institutions transform from nonprofit to commercial entities. In its latest interview, Microfinance Gateway speaks with Center for Financial Inclusion Managing Director Elisabeth Rhyne on the new paper “Aligning Interests” that challenges the microfinance industry to openly discuss these human stumbling blocks.

Click here for the interview >

Click here for the Aligning Interests paper >

> Posted by Alex Silva

CalmeadowIn nearly every transformation of a non-profit MFI over the past decade, the board members and senior managers have recognized and aligned the personal interests of powerful stakeholders in the NGO, typically using some sort of financial incentive. However, this process of recognizing and aligning interests has been neither transparent, nor based on any type of industry standard – precisely because there has been no comprehensive documentation of this information or discussion of this complex, sensitive, and often personal issue. In failing to openly address this topic, institutions can further complicate an already-difficult transition process, delaying or even derailing it. There are many examples of potential transformations and mergers that never came to pass, at least in part because the misalignment of stakeholders’ interests proved to be a key stumbling block. Other times, the lack of transparency can create an image problem that can stain the reputation of an otherwise successful institution preparing to scale up its mission and outreach.

Earlier this month, a group of nearly forty microfinance practitioners and investors met in San Salvador to discuss the recently-published the paper Aligning Interests, sponsored by the Center and Calmeadow. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.