Can Tech Humanize Microfinance? An Unexpected Benefit of Going Digital

 Employees of CEP testing the app

Employees of CEP testing the app

Until recently, CEP (a microfinance institution in Vietnam) operated similarly to most MFIs: Cash transactions and paper records reigned. Mountains of paper accumulated in CEP’s storage rooms despite efforts to digitize some of it. Accessing data involved hours of rummaging through papers, and much of the information was not fully used.

In 2015, CEP joined the OPTIX project and worked with BFA to understand how to optimize its internal processes. CEP noted that one of the lengthiest processes was the loan origination survey, which collects client information, including a “poverty assessment,” used in the loan approval decision. As this data resided only on paper, CEP’s officers had to collect the information at every loan cycle, even when the client’s situation had not changed since their last interaction with the institution. Loan officers reported that they conducted an average of 25 poverty assessments per week, and each one took 20-30 minutes. 

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