At the 2016 Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum, Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Cambodia, said that financial inclusion is a vital enabler that can help unlock the potential of the poor and underserved, enhance women’s economic empowerment and catalyse a range of national development objectives. Its importance is shown in references to six of the seventeen UN sustainable development goals.
Ms. Van der Vaeren also was impressed by level of private and public engagement in Continue reading →
At the 2016 Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum, MFIs and funders led this session’s discussion of collaboration. Kelly Hattel, Financial Sector Specialist for the Asian Development Bank, underscored “the importance of having national strategies for financial inclusion and having them be evidence-based. These are important…both as a donor individually and for Continue reading →
A diverse set of panelists at this session of the Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum agreed that providing financial education can be expensive and yet often fails to produce measurable outcomes. Jayshree Venkatesan, a financial inclusion consultant, stated that “results from financial literacy campaigns are at best mixed.” Shane Nichols, Program Director for Good Return, said that the rise of randomized controlled trials has helped his organization discover that although “we used to do pre- and post-tests showing people gained knowledge…sustained behavior-change was virtually non-existent.”
Ms. Venkatesan explained that “there are a number of things that limit these efforts. They cost a lot of money. Most of these tend to be Continue reading →
The roles of MFIs in financial systems vary significantly from country to country, even within the Mekong region. Somphone Sisenglath, Managing Director of Ekphatthana Microfinance Institution, described the Lao industry as “very young,” with the median MFI just three years old. Most MFIs operate in the capital, Vientiane, while 80 percent of the population is rural. Since it often takes an hour to travel between villages, it is very expensive Continue reading →
This discussion of supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) centered on (1) building systems to boost institutions’ confidence in lending to the sector; and (2) the non-financial needs of MSMEs.
Gerald Sun, Vice President, Head of Sales for Commercial Payments Asia/Pacific at MasterCard Worldwide, said “the banks have trouble making a risk assessment cheaply enough. They lend to big organizations based on their income. For SMEs [small and medium enterprises], they revert to looking at assets as they would for consumer lending. The bank can value a house or car, but not a ton of fertilized chicken eggs.” MasterCard is addressing this issue by Continue reading →
The assembled regulators and trade group leaders offered a litany of current and soon-to-be-released strategies to create a nurturing environment for pro-client financial services. It is critically important to Continue reading →
Organizations serving people at the “bottom of the pyramid” are using solar lighting, doorstep savings services and mobile banking to reach potential customers still untouched by formal financial services. Gaurav Bhandari, Greenlight Planet‘s Senior Global Partnerships Manager for Asia, described his firm’s products, which he reports have prevented 10,000 house fires, increased homeworkers’ productivity by Continue reading →
Ms. Nina Nayar, Associate of the Foundation for Development Cooperation, opened the session reviewing microfinance products and market segments in the region. She described the evolution from “credit and basic savings” years ago to today’s array of credit, savings, insurance, money transfer and other services for individuals as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). These include “a whole slew of innovations” such as payment cards and automated teller machines. She argued that new products are in demand by many segments of often-excluded people: farmers, people in conflict areas, minorities, youth, urban informal workers, migrants and single mothers. At the same time, fear and lack of confidence often Continue reading →