26 Feb 2016
This report presents the findings of the Voice of the Client project in Peru, the second phase of a joint initiative developed by Hivos and MIX with the objective to strengthen the application of Client Protection Principles in the microfinance sector and ensure that financial services are tailored to meet client needs. This initiative leverages mobile technology for microfinance institutions (MFIs) to proactively reach out to clients to uncover potential issues affecting their level of satisfaction with the suite of products and services offered. The analysis is based on data collected via interactive voice responses, call centers and face-to-face interviews from 3,767 clients across four MFIs in Peru. The participating MFIs were Caja Municipal de Ahorro y Crédito (CMAC) Arequipa, Financiera Compartamos, Financiera ProEmpresa, and Fondesurco. Whenever data are available, the report also provides client-level analysis that is primarily focused on gender.
The analysis represents a novel attempt to create benchmarks based on client-level data in the Peruvian market with the aim of providing MFIs and funders with actionable data sourced directly from clients that can be leveraged to address areas of weakness and improve operations accordingly. By regularly tracking how clients perceive the customer service they receive, microfinance stakeholders can design programs that better meet client needs and preferences and, more broadly, improve their impact on the population they aim to serve.
26 Feb 2016
The Smart Campaign, a global organization working to promote a set of Client Protection Principles in the financial inclusion sector, has long recognized that client perspectives were underrepresented in consumer protection discussions. With the Client Voices project, the Campaign questioned whether assumptions made about what constitutes problematic treatment rightly reflected what clients themselves worry about.
To address this gap, the Campaign launched the Client Voices project, an ambitious research endeavor involving quantitative and qualitative research in Benin, Pakistan, Peru, and Georgia. The dual objectives of the project Executive Summary were (1) to solicit input from clients about what they consider good and bad treatment in their interactions with microfinance service providers; and (2) to assess the prevalence of consumer protection problems among microfinance clients using national quantitative surveys. The project is designed to act as a catalyst for local actors including regulators, microfinance associations, consumer advocacy groups, and others in each of the four markets to make improvements to client protection that is grounded in client feedback.
17 Sep 2015
This report investigates the poverty outreach of 14 microfinance institutions (MFI) across six Latin American countries: Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. It uses information that these MFIs have collected in terms of poverty likelihood using the Progress Out of Poverty® Index (a.k.a. Simple Poverty Scorecard) supplemented by in-depth interviews with industry experts. The following is a summary of the report findings.
Those who reach the highest percentage of poorer clients are the ones that focus on clients in regions with higher percentages of poor people. At the time data was collected, only a couple of MFIs had quantitative poverty-outreach targets. MFIs do not generally embed poverty targets into their loan officer-incentive structure. When the MFIs have quantitative poverty-outreach targets, they are either part of their commercial strategy (e.g., MFI C in Bolivia, MFI G in Guatemala), or a requirement from external stakeholders (e.g., MFI A of Bolivia, MFI R in Ecuador–both with World Vision). Moreover, a number of MFIs mentioned that product design (e.g., loan size and compulsory monthly educational training) leads to self-selection by poorer clients. The switch of the industry from MFIs being typically NGOs to for-profit institutions seems to lead to more emphasis on measuring success in terms of profitability (rather than poverty outreach).
The report also surfaced two interlinked factors driving poverty outreach across some Latin American markets: competition and over-indebtedness. MFIs seem to be reaching more poor clients in regions with higher banking saturation, even though their mission statements are not about reaching the poor. Indeed, in regions where wealthier clients are already served by commercial banks, MFIs service poorer clients (e.g., urban areas). However, they service relatively wealthier clients in regions where they are unbanked (e.g., rural areas). This was often cited as a factor driving the higher percentage of poorer MFI clients in urban areas relative to rural areas.
Increased banking competition is also leading MFIs to shift their operations into more suburban and rural areas in search for the unbanked. Thus, impact investors and development institutions could look into ways to foster greater competition amongst banking institutions as a path to serving more of the less wealthy clients1 and the unbanked. Increased banking saturation is changing the landscape of microfinance, pushing MFIs who do not explicitly target the poor to provide loans to poorer individuals. In their in-depth interviews, industry experts and MFIs discussed the implications of high banking saturation on their outreach. The change has come about because MFIs generally cannot compete with the interest rates offered by commercial banks, in addition the MFIs’ social missions discourage aggressive lending. Thus, they are moving operations to suburban and rural areas in search of the unbanked. Most of the MFIs included in this study cited banking saturation as a factor when deciding which regions to enter. Some MFIs focus on regions with higher percentages of poorer households, and the report finds that these tend to have a higher percentage of poorer clients in their portfolio.
18 Mar 2015
Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Microfinance Projects in IFC
IFC is the World Bank Group’s main investor in microfinance, working with around 300 microfinance institutions (MFIs) and SME-focused financial institutions, which provide financial services in 91 countries. IFC is also one of the leading global investors in terms of volume. In fiscal year 2014, we committed $519 million in 43 projects with MFIs. Our cumulative investment portfolio in microfinance exceeded $3.5 billion, with outstanding commitments of $2.0 billion. In fiscal year 2014, IFC advisory services comprised $74.2 million, representing advisory assistance for 86 projects. We have taken an active role in advising microfinance institutions and building or strengthening comprehensive and robust credit reporting systems such as credit bureaus, which are critical to avoiding over-indebtedness and supporting responsible lending practices. In addition, IFC’s work has been critical in post conflict countries: we have engaged in 32 IDA and 10 post-conflict countries, including Bosnia and Afghanistan, and with a particular emphasis on Sub- Saharan Africa, where we supported the creation of greenfield microfinance institutions in 33 countries. This SmartBook, titled From Small Beginnings to Great Opportunities, presents practical lessons learned from the work that we have been doing on microfinance projects over the last twenty years. From launching the Microfinance Enhancement Facility to help the industry stay afloat during the time of crisis, to working on a project to support microfinance clients to fulfill their housing dreams, these narratives are both engaging and insightful and we hope you will learn from them. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts made by IFC staff in not only working on microfinance, but also documenting some of these lessons for others to learn.
Serving China’s Frontier Regions through Sustainable, Prudent Financial Inclusion
Responsible finance—the pragmatic way forward in the global microfinance community today—is helping IFC have an impact on its clients’ operations and bottom lines, as well as influence on the markets where they operate. Responsible finance brings the focus back to clients and encourages financial institutions to build client-centric operating practices that support prudent and sustainable financial growth over the long term. This Smart Lesson uses recent projects in China to show how responsible finance is breaking new ground for IFC in microfinance, enhancing IFC’s relationships with its existing partners, and providing demonstration results to share with potential new partners, within the microfinance sector and beyond.