The Hardest-Working People in Microfinance

> Posted by Leah Wardle
Unless 10,000 people read this blog post in the next 15 days, I will be fired. So please read this post! If I hit the desired readership not only will I keep my job, but I will get a bonus equal to a month’s extra pay. PLEASE read it! If you don’t, you might not like what happens. Seriously, you and your family could be affected. Don’t make me come to your house and force you to read it. OK, that’s it! I’m coming to confiscate your computer until you agree to read it.
Pressure to perform, especially against unrealistic targets, can lead to a temporary breakdown in ethical judgment. I’m not actually facing tremendous daily pressure to perform, and nothing will happen to me (or you) if you don’t read this post. But it illustrates is the kind of world in which microfinance loan officers live — the brave souls that I like to call the hardest-working people in microfinance.
Unfortunately, loan officers are often under-prepared for a job that often puts them at direct odds with the people they are meant to serve. When clients don’t repay their loans, the officers suffer. And some make the clients suffer in return. With little guidance or practical instruction on the ethical “do’s and dont’s” of debt recovery, some loan officers perpetrate serious ethical violations in hopes of extracting loan repayments from clients.
Loan officers deserve to work under explicit policies for acceptable and unacceptable debt collections practices, and to receive practical training on how to face the harsh world of overdue loans. “Don’t mistreat clients” is not a policy, it’s a mantra. And mantras are good for chanting, but easily forgotten when a loan portfolio is underperforming. Let’s look at some of the ways acceptable collections practices can be misinterpreted:

Remember that our hardest-working employees also have the most interaction with clients. Let’s train credit staff to behave ethically even when they are under immense pressure to recover loans. Concerning the pressure we place on them, that’s another blog post…

Image credit: Orionman
Have you read?
Is Client Retention Always a Good Thing?
Smart Campaign Unveils e-Learning Course to Boost Client Protection and Financial Education
Dispatch from the Field: Loan Officer Incentives – A Delicate Balancing Act