All the World’s a Stage for Client Protection: Reflections From Montenegro

> Posted by Alyssa Passarelli, Communications and Operations Assistant, the Smart Campaign

Sergio Guzmán conducting a Smart Assessor’s Training in Budva, Montenegro

Sergio Guzmán conducting a Smart Assessor’s Training in Budva, Montenegro

The month of May was filled with many exciting events for the Smart Campaign. Smart Campaign director, Isabelle Barrès traveled to Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina for two Client Protection Certification events (please see our last blog post). Smart Campaign Lead Specialist, Sergio Guzmán also traveled to this corner of the world to conduct a Smart Assessor’s Training and to attend the 16th Annual Microfinance Centre Conference in Budva, Montenegro. Although the Campaign is based in Washington, D.C., Campaign staff thrive on opportunities to engage in client protection efforts beyond the office.

It’s a good thing that Sergio does not have a fear of heights. With the amount of time that Sergio spends in the air each month, he might as well be Superman. The Smart Assessor’s Training in Budva brought together a diverse group of financial services experts including donors, investors, consultants, and CEOs of microfinance institutions (MFIs), among others in the Eastern Europe/Central Asia region. Even with the ranging backgrounds of these participants, Sergio notes that the evident common denominators are the enthusiasm to incorporate the Client Protection Principles (CPPs) into their work and a keen desire to improve their commitment to those they serve.

It is very exciting for the Campaign to generate interest among such a wide range of actors at events like the training in Budva. The Smart Campaign’s growing involvement in activities among participants from different backgrounds reflects client protection’s increasing foothold. This layered interest and further desire to cement client protection into business practices is a promising achievement for the movement.

In the discussion of adequate client care at the Microfinance Centre Conference, there was much interest in what Client Protection Certification entails and what it means for MFIs that gain the status. Since each institution has a unique history, style, structure, and mission, no one way to implement the Principles can be prescribed. The attendees of the training were examples of this. They all want to apply the CPPs in their businesses, but each institution works differently. Institutions won’t necessarily approach achievement of certification in the same way, but keeping clients at the forefront of their efforts should always serve as the guiding light.

Certification means being a client-centric institution in which all operations incorporate adequate standard of care based on the seven CPPs. It is important to keep the goal of certification in mind. As Sergio says, “Client protection certification is not an end in itself. The end goal is to treat clients responsibly.” Sergio noted no two institutions achieve certification in the same way, and that satisfying the 95 indicators to become certified is a selective process. This echoes Isabelle Barrès’ point from the client protection certification webinar series in April that it will take some MFIs time to reach the status, but it is most important that they be on the path (please follow the link to a recording of this webinar). Even though each institution needs to individually evaluate how it should achieve certification, it also means that institutions are not limited in how they can approach the best way for them to successfully treat clients using adequate standards of care. Some areas of their business may need to be improved, while others may not need to change a lot. The diversity among those who aim to treat their clients according to the Client Protection Principles only enriches the potential for the Smart Campaign’s future engagements on other stages somewhere in the world.

Have you read?

A Refresher on Smart Assessments? Let’s Go to the Videotape!

How Smart Assessments and Client Protection Certifications Work Together Harmoniously

Smart Campaign Shaping the Landscape of Microfinance in Bosnia and Herzegovina