As Co-Chair of the Microfinance CEO Working Group (MCWG), VisionFund International (VFI)CEO, Scott Brown, recently visited Bangladesh, the birthplace of microfinance. The MCWG's board meeting was hosted by BRAC, one of the world’s largest non-governmental development organisations, and included other groups such as Accion and Freedom from Hunger.
As with VFI, the MCWG is exploring the future state of microfinance as technology, funding, and regulation change. The industry as a whole must adapt and innovate to bring financial access to over two billion people world-wide, those of which are largely in rural areas and farmers. The group explored and debated new microfinance models to meet these increased challenges. These often focused on technology to drive down cost, improve access, increase product offerings, and are clearly of future interest to VFI's clientele.
Scott was encouraged by one offering called bKash. BKash is BRAC’s independent mobile banking company that allows clients greater payment access. It uses a sophisticated cash level monitoring system and real time statistics to deliver cash liquidity nationally, even in the remotest of areas. VFI’s COO, Max Robinson, and his team, are currently working on similar advances.
Scott, along with BRAC’s CEO, also hosted a wider industry event, which included half a dozen microfinance institutions, banks, payment companies, insurance providers and foundations. The group discussed relevant topics including regulation, competition, product development and access to the remote poor. It was clear through the discussions that partnerships will be an important part of future service models. Through events such as these, the MCWG will continue to bring in experts from different fields - including mobile network operators (MNOs), FinTech outfits and insurers to better understand the changing environment of financial inclusion.
It is essential that future products meet lending demands responsibly and it is hoped that Scott's role in the MCWG will bring added insight and benefit to VFI. Continually learning from industry peers will help VFI to deliver its mission of impacting nine million children a year by 2019.