CFI Celebrates Smart Campaign’s Advancement of Consumer Protection, Announces Plans to Transition Resources to Industry Partners

The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), an independent think tank housed at Accion, launched the Smart Campaign over a decade ago to advance consumer protection for low-income customers. Over the span of the program, CFI played a catalytic role in advancing knowledge of consumer protection by conducting research, establishing the Client Protection Principles, and rolling out a certification program under which 135 institutions attained Smart Certification, expanding protection for more than 62 million clients globally. Building on this success, CFI will transfer the wealth of implementation resources created by the Smart Campaign to trusted industry partners, enabling CFI to continue playing a catalytic role focused on the risks to low-income customers in the rapidly changing inclusive finance landscape.

CFI and our partners are proud of what the Smart Campaign has achieved over the past ten years by bringing heightened attention to consumer protection and creating a common language for the inclusive finance community. In order for CFI to focus on identifying, understanding, and catalyzing the conversation on an evolving range of critical topics, CFI will shift ownership of the Smart Campaign implementation resources to SPTF and CERISE and sunset the Smart Campaign brand. These partners were instrumental in the creation of many of these resources, and their focus on implementation and direct engagement with financial service providers (FSPs) make them well-suited to the ongoing management of these resources. With this handoff, CFI will remain focused on consumer protection through its research on emerging risks in the increasingly complex inclusive finance landscape, such as risks concerning data privacy, algorithmic decision-making, and sup-tech solutions.

Longtime partners to the Smart Campaign, SPTF and CERISE, will become the stewards of the Campaign’s community of experts, implementation tools, and Client Protection Standards. The Smart Campaign’s standards have always been fully integrated in the SPTF’s Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM), and SPTF will maintain and update the consumer protection portion of the Universal Standards in the future.

Providers and others will continue to be able to access the Smart Campaign tools through SPTF’s Resource Center and will access implementation support through the SPTF-managed Responsible Inclusive Finance Facilities. The active consumer protection assessors and trainers that the Smart Campaign accredited over the years will also move into the larger community of social performance management experts managed by SPTF and CERISE, creating increased efficiency.

CFI will also gradually retire the Smart Certification brand. New Smart Certification seals will continue to be awarded until April 30, 2021. All four-year certifications will be valid for the full length of the accreditation and CFI will continue to display a list of certified FSPs. We believe that a global client protection recognition scheme remains an important tool to incentivize and recognize FSPs that are committed to consumer protection and are collaborating closely with the Smart Campaign’s highly experienced Certification Bodies to provide continuity in the market beyond April 2021. The licensed Certification Bodies are well positioned to continue offering products under their own branding that recognize FSPs for their consumer protection performance at the global level.

CFI remains committed to consumer protection as a core part of our mission and will continue to work with the industry to produce new research and maintain the Client Protection Principles and Guidance. We will also work closely with our partners, SPTF and CERISE, along with the Certification Bodies and others to translate CFI’s research into practical tools for FSPs. CFI is grateful to all those who have supported the Smart Campaign over the years – donors, investors, FSPs, regulators, consultants, and other partner organizations – and looks forward to ongoing partnership as we collectively work to improve consumer protection for low-income customers.

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