CFI Unveils Key Survey Findings in ‘Opportunities and Obstacles to Financial Inc...

Jul 2011
Washington DC, July, 11 2011 - Microfinance professionals are questioning their prior assumptions about the laser focus on growth and credit that has dominated the industry, says a report released today by the Center for Financial inclusion (CFI) at ACCION International.

“Opportunities and Obstacles to Financial Inclusion” reveals that financial education was the top opportunity seen by the 301 industry stakeholders who participated in the January-March 2011 survey. In tandem, lack of financial literacy headed the list of perceived obstacles to financial inclusion.

“A key message from respondents is that the industry has to listen to clients and reply with more demand-driven products,” said CFI Managing Director Beth Rhyne, who authored the paper with Senior Analyst Anita Gardeva.

“Only a few years ago, microfinance practitioners were sure that they met the needs of clients, but they now recognize that they were too focused on what they knew how to provide and not focused enough on what actually benefits clients,” Rhyne continued. “The survey’s main message echoes Bill Clinton’s famous campaign slogan, with a twist: ‘It’s the clients, stupid.’”

Responses also reveal that what you think depends on where you sit. Different stakeholder groups ranked opportunities and obstacles differently:

  • Service providers perceive the cost of building branches as the top obstacle.
  • Investors and support organizations are far more worried about inadequate client protection than are service providers.
  • Many respondents want more and better regulation of microfinance, but few want government to be a provider.
  • Mobile and agent banking are exciting opportunities but far from the whole financial inclusion story.
  • Putting off action on credit bureaus is no longer an option. Investors see this as the top opportunity.

“We were delighted to find that the top-ranked opportunities and their accompanying obstacles outline a holistic seven-point agenda that addresses each of the main arenas for action to achieve full financial inclusion within a decade,” said Rhyne.

The Center for Financial Inclusion will organize a series of roundtable discussions on the paper with industry leaders to build greater consensus about financial inclusion and to develop the action agenda for reaching it. These roundtables are made possible with generous financial support and collaboration by Citi Foundation.


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