The microfinance and financial inclusion industry is rapidly attracting large volumes of private capital for institutions serving low-income consumers. Yet the ability of microfinance institutions (MFIs) to absorb and deploy these investments is rising only gradually. To reach the goal of developing commercially sustainable MFIs – and of mainstreaming microfinance into the banking sectors of poor countries – there is a critical need to establish norms and best practices for investors and prepare MFIs for investment.
Through its Investing in Inclusive Finance program, the Center for Financial Inclusion explores the challenges and opportunities associated with the intersection of financial inclusion and commercial investment. These areas include strengthening microfinance fund management; creating instruments that foster healthy local capital markets; assisting MFIs with transformation strategies; and building capacity and support for MFIs to qualify for commercial investment and to work effectively with investors. The Center seeks solutions that address the needs of both investors and MFIs and draw on the collective expertise of Accion staff and private sector players.
The Investing in Inclusive Finance program’s three main focus areas include, but are not limited to:
The work of the Investing in Inclusive Finance team is made possible through the Center for Financial Inclusion sponsors of Credit Suisse and Accion.
Governance Working Group: The Governance Working Group (GWG) housed by the Center For Financial Inclusion since 2012, held its most recent webinar November 21, 2013 as a planning meeting on the group’s strategy for 2014. The GWG group aims to bring together leading experts and initiatives to address the challenge of improving governance in the industry. It has the goals of coordinating the different governance initiatives in microfinance, conducting research to advance the state of knowledge and practices, and engaging with different stakeholders to implement and improve governance practices.
Risk Management Initiative in Microfinance: The Risk Management Initiative in Microfinance (RIM) presented their Risk Management Graduation Model at the European Microfinance Week November 12-14, 2013 in Luxembourg. The mission of RIM is to contribute to the development of awareness, best practices, and appropriate standards for risk management in microfinance globally. RIM’s vision is to contribute to a socially-focused microfinance sector through which microfinance clients are protected from the impacts of internal and external risks inherent to the delivery of inclusive financial services.
Financial Inclusion Equity Council: The Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC), previously the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds (CMEF) held its semi-annual meeting with the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) on October 28, 2013 in London, U.K. FIEC member Citi Microfinance generously hosted the meeting. The meeting presented a strategy for the council refresh, which included the re-naming. Topics discussed at the meeting included whether fund management should be a team or individual effort. Updates from industry initiatives on the topic of balancing social and financial returns were given by PRI, the Sangham group, and Aligning Investor Due Diligence and Monitoring Practices with USSPM (ALINUS), a Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) working group. CMEF, now FIEC, also presented a balancing returns draft framework developed by an internal working group.
Governance Leadership Seminar: The "Governance Leadership in a Competitive World" pilot seminar was held October 3-4, 2013 in Mexico City with approximately 30 MFI board members, CEOs, and investors from Latin America attending. The seminar was a success in engaging board members in an active dialogue about the challenges they face in governance and risk, and their roles and responsibilities in setting and monitoring the MFI’s mission and strategy. Ultimately, a stronger, more effective board presence related to governance and risk management will contribute to the health of MFIs around the world, and this positive change will also be felt by their clients who will benefit from more stable, and secure financial institutions. The seminar provided board members with the opportunity to interact with other players within their geographical context and facilitated a greater understanding of the industry trends and regional challenges. Participating board members and CEOs reported that they learned a lot from their peers who shared both good and bad experiences and requested more opportunities for exchange in the future.
Governing Banks: Microfinance Edition: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) developed a toolkit called the “Governing Banks Supplement,” which helps train financial institutions in governance and risk management. The IFC presented the Center with a unique opportunity to modify this toolkit to focus specifically on governance and risk management for the microfinance industry. The Governing Banks Manual: Microfinance Edition published in July 2013 provides microfinance managers and board members with hands-on, experiential learning opportunity to improve their ability to identify areas of risk, and develop skills for managing those risks effectively.
Funding Investing in Inclusive Finance initiatives can take the form of:
- Programmatic sponsorship: to support the Investing in Inclusive Finance development and initiatives.
- Board Development Program support
- Scholarships: to support individuals or organizations who would benefit greatly from the Board Development Program but cannot attend due to financial reasons. These can either be direct grants to the Board Development Program for disbursement, or support for pre-identified program participants.
Engage with the Investing in Inclusive Finance Blog Series:
The Investing in Inclusive Finance blog series explores the practices of investors in inclusive finance. Across areas including risk, governance, stakeholder alignment, and fund management, this blog series highlights what’s being done to help the industry better utilize private capital to develop financial institutions that incorporate social aims.
- Promote Investing in Inclusive Finance blog posts through your respective social media channels.
- Cross-post an Investing in Inclusive Finance blog post on your blog, or suggest a post you would like us to cross-post on our blog.
- Write a guest post: You, or someone in your network or organization, can write a guest post either highlighting innovative project(s), partnership(s) or research related to the Investing in Inclusive Finance program’s work.