MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Accion’s Smart Campaign Streamlines Microfinance Client Protection Certification Program

The Smart Campaign, a consumer-protection initiative launched in 2010 by US-based nonprofit organization Accion, recently announced changes to its Client Protection Certification Program that are intended to improve the certification process by reducing the time it takes for financial institutions to become certified, extending certification validity from two years to four years, and launching an appeals and complaints system [1]. The Client Protection Certification Program is an evaluation system used to recognize financial institutions that meet Client Protection Principles, which cover “appropriate product design and delivery”, “prevention of over-indebtedness”, “transparency”, “responsible pricing”, “fair and respectful treatment of clients”, “privacy of client data” and “mechanisms for complaint resolution” [2].

Isabelle Barrès, director of the Smart Campaign, said “Our goal is to make the program as cost-effective and user-friendly as possible. We want microfinance clients everywhere to work with institutions that meet high consumer-protection standards” [1].

As of May 2015, the Smart Campaign has certified 32 microfinance institutions serving approximately 15 million clients.

By Caroline Zhu, Research Associate

About the Smart Campaign

The Smart Campaign, which was founded by US-based nonprofit organization Accion and is located at Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion in the US city of Washington, is an “effort to unite microfinance leaders around a common goal: to keep clients as the driving force of the industry.” It promotes seven client protection principles: “appropriate product design and delivery”, “prevention of over-indebtedness”, “transparency”, “responsible pricing”, “ fair and respectful treatment of clients”, “privacy of client data” and “mechanisms for complaint resolution”. As of May 2015, the Smart Campaign has certified 32 microfinance institutions serving approximately 15 million clients.

About Accion

Accion is a private, US-based nonprofit organization with the mission of alleviating poverty by offering financial products such as microenterprise loans and business training. Accion was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. Accion’s partner microfinance institutions provide loans to men and women entrepreneurs through 64 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in 32 countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia. As of 2014, Accion, in association with its partner MFIs, has an active loan portfolio of USD 7.54 billion serving 5.30 million borrowers.

Sources and Additional Resources:

[1] The Smart Campaign Press Release, “Smart Campaign Announces Enhancements To Client Protection Certification Program,” http://www.smartcampaign.org/news-a-highlights/whats-happening/70-2014/1046-smart-campaign-announces-enhancements-to-client-protection-certification-program

[2] MicroCapital.org article, March 12, 2013, “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: MasterCard Foundation Donates $4.3m to Smart Campaign for Microfinance Client Protection Effort,” https://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-mastercard-foundation-donates-4-3m-to-smart-campaign-for-microfinance-client-protection-effort/

MicroCapital Universe Profile: The Smart Campaign

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Accion

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