SPTF Newsletter

Your SPM Updates for Oct. 2019         

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The Customer Empowerment Issue

This month's issue of the SPTF newsletter is dedicated to the topic of customer empowerment. If we can get customer empowerment right, it will move our industry from inclusion to impact. Check out the news from SPTF's Customer Empowerment Working Group, as well as videos and articles from organizations who are moving the needle for illiterate and innumerate customers. 


November 13, 2019

Investor webinar: Social Investor Working Group updates
WebEx, 9am EST

This webinar, open to investors only, will provide the latest updates from the Social Investor Working Group. Agenda items will include the introduction of the newly elected co-chair for the group and results from the recent survey of investors about the priorities of the group going forward. Additionally, Christophe Bochatay will discuss Triple Jump's experience implementing the Responsible Finance Forum's Guidelines for Responsible Investing in Digital Financial Services. To join the SIWG or join the event mailing list, email Katie Hoffmann.

November 13, 2019

Panel: Realizing the SDGs through Microfinance
New York, 5:30pm EST                            

During this discussion, hosted by the Impact Capital Forum at BNP Paribas, panelists will examine the track record of the modern microfinance movement, focusing on how it has and can still contribute to reaching the sustainable development goals (SDGs). This starts with SDG 1 – poverty alleviation – but also includes other goals, such as sustainable agriculture, water and sanitation, health, and clean energy. Panelists will also discuss what microfinance can teach us about excellence in nonprofit organizations and social enterprises generally. Register here

November 18-23, 2019

Dakar, Senegal

SPTF Deputy Director Amelia Greenberg will attend the financial inclusion week hosted by the BCEAO to promote further collaboration and coordination between the activities of the RIFF-SSA/MENA funding facility and the BCEAO's financial inclusion projects. 

November 21-22, 2019

SPTF at European Microfinance Week 

SPTF Director Laura Foose will host a panel discussion at this year's European Microfinance Week (e-MFP). The panel will explore client outcomes, focusing on the roles and responsibilities of three key players in the ecosystem: regulators, investors, and financial service providers. Registration for e-MFP is open.   

Spotlight on Customer Empowerment 

Customer Empowerment for Impact: SPTF's Customer Empowerment Working Group

Even the most responsible provider cannot be effective without empowered customers. For example, to avoid over-indebtedness, we need both good policies at a provider level and customers who are aware of the risks of lending and act to protect themselves. An empowered customer has the capability (knowledge, skills, confidence, etc), to make good decisions and engage with providers to shape services to their own needs. It also means that structures at the provider and market levels do not block -- and better yet, enable -- customers from putting this capability into practice.

 What does an empowered customer look like? 

  • She knows her rights and the risks involved in using financial services and can make informed decisions to protect herself.
  • She uses available channels for customer voice to complain, give feedback, and assert her needs and rights.
  • She makes informed decisions about which providers and products she will use and can negotiate and shape her experience.  
  • She can engage with structures that enable her to make effective use of financial services, such as national recourse mechanisms or support.

The SPTF Customer Empowerment Working Group 
The SPTF Customer Empowerment Working Group is seeking to develop practical guidance at the provider and market levels to support customer empowerment and enable customers to have more effective choice, voice, respect, and control in their engagement with financial services. A number of actions are underway or being developed: 

  • Strengthening customer capability:  Empowered customers have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make good choices, engage with providers, and provide feedback or challenge situations that are problematic. Customer capability can be strengthened through financial education; for example, MFO researched the challenges faced by garment workers in Bangladesh when their wage payments were digitalised, and it is using this to build a financial education module that can be used during the digitalisation process. Capability can also be supported by recognizing the need for customers to ‘learn by doing’ and building in sufficient time and support into this process, such as including customer service staff in bank branches. 
  • Customer journey mapping to address disempowerment: Customers are empowered in relation to a specific structure or context. For example,  even a confident customer may not make a complaint if structures are not in place. One of the most important actions that providers can take is customer journey mapping to identify where specific customer segments experience barriers in relation to their choice, voice, respect, or control. A number of organizations are undertaking journey mapping to identify key points where specific customer segments may be disempowered. 
  • Strengthening customer choice and voice with individual providers: A number of providers are seeking to build capacity and structures to enable informed choice, dialogue with, and feedback to providers. For example, ASKI (Philippines) is mapping the customer journey for different segments to identify points of disempowerment, designing mechanisms to address points of disempowerment in key touch points, and capturing indicators of customer empowerment in the bank's MIS.
  • Information systems: A number of organizations want to capture and segment customer empowerment data. For example, M-CRIL is including customer empowerment indicators in its social ratings. FINCA is planning to test customer empowerment in its client satisfaction and health surveys, and Grameen Foundation is testing customer empowerment indicators in surveys in India and the Pacific Islands. 
  • Addressing customer empowerment at a market level: In non-competitive markets, providers may not have an interest or business case to address customer empowerment. Market-level initiatives such as customer voice through social media, an ombudsman or association can serve to bring common challenges faced by individual customers across providers together and enable more effective engagement with providers or regulators. Action-research is being developed to test this, potentially in the Philippines and Kenya. 

Learn more and get connected!

If you have an interest in any of these aspects of customer empowerment, please contact Anton Simanowitz, who facilitates the group. We can support you to:

  • Better understand the relevance of customer empowerment to your organization. 
  • Identify practical steps to strengthen your focus on customer empowerment and provide guidance and resources to do so. 
  • Connect you with other organizations to share experience or work collectively on common challenges (e.g., developing indicators).
  • Source funding through the regional responsible inclusive finance facilities to co-fund work on customer empowerment as an SPM upgrade project. (See more below)
  • If you are interested in looking at customer empowerment at a sector level, then we would be interested in working with you to develop and fund action-research ideas. 

Empowerment for Oral Customers

At the heart of empowerment is a customer's capability to use products skilfully and confidently. With over one billion illiterate adults across the globe today, we cannot expect to achieve customer empowerment without addressing the need for financial services that serve oral people. Momentum and interest are building among practitioners, researchers, and others who want to understand oral customers and empower them to take full advantage of financial services. 

Here, we are highlighting two organizations making serious headway in this effort -- My Oral Village and MSC. A good place to dive into this subject is My Oral Village's video describing how oral people need a different approach to financial inclusion. Then, the Design for Oral Financial Inclusion Briefing Note looks deeper into the subject, offering concrete evidence and guiding principles for designing digital user interfaces for oral customers. Hidden constraints to digital financial inclusion: the oral-literate divide is a longer read, but essential for understanding the cultural and economic reasons behind orality as well as what is working to bridge the vast gap that exists between the literate and oral worlds. 

It's smart for oral people to hide their innumeracy, because innumeracy makes you vulnerable. What's not smart is for those of us numerates and literates who ought to know better to act like what we see is all there is. Oral people will acquire the skills they need, if they see the benefit--and the benefit is to be able to use financial services without fear of making mistakes or getting ripped off. We are finding solutions to help adult villagers who are stranded in the oral world to cross the bridge into full financial inclusion.

- Brett Hudson Matthews, My Oral Village

MSC collaborated with My Oral Village to assess the literacy and numeracy capabilities of typical Indian users. The project uncovered how orality relates to the design of smartphone user interfaces. The research resulted in MoWO—mobile wallet for oral—the first ever wallet prototype for the oral segment. This presentation on MoWo is useful not just for understanding how oral Indians can access mobile wallets, but for learning solid design principles for any oral segment. 

We encourage you to jump in and learn more and to share with us what you are doing to empower oral people. Is your organization addressing the literacy-based constraints to financial exclusion? We want to hear from you!

Regional responsible inclusive finance (RIF) facilities 

Apply now for co-financing and trainings! 

The SPTF manages three regional SPM implementation facilities, each of which aims to strengthen the capacity and SPM practices of financial service providers in its region. The facilities cover Africa, the Middle East, Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. 

Each facility offers trainings that focus on SPM-related tools, as well as building the capacity of local consultants and networks to improve SPM. The facilities also co-finance activities that are designed to help FSPs begin to assess their SPM practices and implement improvements, including in the areas of digital readiness assessment and digital transformation. 

Each facility accepts applications on a rolling basis and reviews them quarterly. The facilities and their upcoming deadlines are listed below: 

  • Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East/North Africa (RIFF-SSA/MENA). Funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), with additional project funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and from the Government of Luxembourg via the European Investment Bank (EIB). To learn more about the facility, visit its webpage. The next application deadline is December 3rd, 2019
  • Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Central America and the Caribbean (RIFF-CAC). Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), with additional project funding from the Government of Luxembourg via the European Investment Bank (EIB). To learn more about the facility, visit its webpage. The next application deadline is December 19th, 2019.
  • Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Southeast Asia (RIFF-SEA). Funded by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg. To learn more about the facility, visit its webpage. The next application deadline is December 19th, 2019 


News from the SPTF Community

SPTF member Alterfin on Speaking the Common Language of the SDGs 

Don't miss this interview with Alterfin Cvba's General Manager Jean-Marc Debricon on FinDev Gateway. Debricon discusses the importance of investors speaking a common language when it comes to social performance and how Alterfin no longer uses an ESG framework, but rather an "ESPM" framework - Environmental and Social Performance Management.

Customer Empowerment Spotlight: Genesis empowers customers by locating POS devices in client businesses

Fundación Genesis Empresarial (Guatemala) uses a delivery channel that is
both convenient for clients who are making a transaction and beneficial for
clients conducting the transaction. The innovative FSP is using point of sale
(POS) devices to allow clients to make loan payments and send and receive
remittances—and they have located the POS devices in client businesses,
such as small stores and kiosks. This placement creates benefits for clients
who are making payments, as the POS is located in their own community,
usually much closer than a Genesis branch location. Additionally, clients who
manage the POS also benefit, as their businesses get more foot traffic, they
earn a commission for each transaction and each new person they refer to
Genesis, and they receive customer service training and technical training on
the use of the POS device.

Before this new system, Genesis clients made many of their loan payments
at local banks. Clients were often intimidated to go into the banks, and
sometimes the banks would even poach Genesis’ customers or intentionally
provide poor service. The new system is more in line with clients’
preferences. Clients are transacting with fellow clients in locations that are
familiar and unintimidating; complaints or problems can be resolved directly
by Genesis (as opposed to going through the banks first); and since the POS
operators are existing clients, they are familiar with Genesis’ Code of Ethics
and standards for customer treatment.

In addition to financial services related to loans and remittances, the POS
devices can be used to pay utility and credit card bills, so clients can check
several things off of their “to do” list at once. Furthermore, client businesses
typically have longer working hours than banks (8:00-21:00 versus 9:00-
16:00), which means greater convenience and lower opportunity cost for
clients using the POS service. 

Congratulations to the finalists for the European Microfinance Award 2019

Two of SPTF's close collaborators--ASKI, and FDL--are finalists for the European Microfinance Award 2019 “Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change.” These two organizations, along with APA will now go on to compete for the €100,000 prize.Through the initiatives these outstanding organisations have put in place to increase vulnerable populations’ resilience to climate change, they demonstrate the innovation and dynamism of this most critical area of financial inclusion.

SPTF congratulates all three finalists!

SPTF Membership

SPTF thanks its paying organizational members

In 2018, SPTF started collecting annual membership fees from its stakeholders. We wish Organizational Memberto recognize our sustaining members, whose partnership and financial support ensure our ongoing operations. SPTF is the only inclusive finance community that spans all industry stakeholders -- and is therefore fundamental to building cross-sectional knowledge, strengthening practitioners, and maintaining the focus needed for industry-wide change. 

To further acknowledge these members, we will be highlighting a few such organizations each month. 

Today, we thank three new sustaining members in particular:


Lao Microfinance Association



Resources and References

Explore the resources below for tools and guidance to help strengthen your social performance management and achieve your social and financial goals.

Universal Standards for Social Performance Management Technical Assistance Database  Universal Standards Implementation Guide
SPI4 Tool SPTF Guidance Notes SPTF Resource Center
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