Changing Internal Culture to Smooth the Transition from Pure Lending to Savings

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Changing staff culture in order to effectively promote new products at a microfinance institution (MFI) can be nearly as challenging as getting customers to embrace the products but the OPTIX project helped one MFI in Vietnam address its marketing problems by connecting it with a peer in Bangladesh that had overcome this hurdle.

The Capital Aid Fund for Employment of the Poor (CEP) was founded in Vietnam in 1991 as an unregulated nonprofit organization to offer credit to people on low incomes in the Mekong region of Vietnam. Over 27 years of operations, CEP had established a strong, credit-focused identity, which drove admirable results for its clients and for the institution.

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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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Potential for Mobile Money in Vietnam

Early adopters in Ho Chi Minh City embrace payments but mobile money has yet to gain ground


Just one year after launching its mobile wallet and payment app, Vietnamese FinTech company Momo boasts that the app has one million users to add to the 2.5 million mobile money customers Momo had announced in 2016. While preliminary research suggests that these mobile money customers are young, urban men paying for goods and services, BFA is staking a closer look at usage patterns to help a local microfinance bank identify opportunities deploy mobile money among its customer base.

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