What a journey it has been!

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

By Weselina Angelow

A basic account is a secure entry point for previously unbanked people to become financially more resilient. It also opens a whole world of opportunities – be it for investing in education for themselves or their children, or in growing their businesses.

In the words of one of the customers of a Scale2Save initiative, implemented in partnership with Centenary Bank:

“I got to know about CenteXpress account from my friend who helped me open the account. I learned about its benefits from my friend and I also

started opening accounts for other students (through the digital link feature)

I have greatly benefited from CenteXpress through the commissions that I have received for opening accounts for others. Further, my parents send me school tuition digitally via CenteXpress. I also use it to buy airtime. More importantly, it helps me save the little amounts that I can set aside from my tailoring business.”

Nakayima Magret, Student and tailor. Kikuubo, Masaka, Uganda.

Between 2016 and 2022 Scale2Save financially included more than 1.3 million women, young people and farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire that helped us better understand – especially in the midst of a pandemic – how, when and why savings contribute to household wellbeing, financial resilience or (creating) business opportunities of or for the people served.

  • Given that the majority of customers are low-income, investments in expanding, restarting, or opening a business can increase income quickly, thereby improving customers’ economic status and financial stability. On average, about 49% used their savings for investment purposes, and most of the time for business-related investments. Almost all financial service providers recorded use of savings for businesses purposes across nearly half of their customers who’d used their savings, 50% of them being male adults. Business investment was also common among adult women. This largely stems from the fact that certain partner FSPs purposely targeted female micro-entrepreneurs and encouraged them to save toward the purchase of a productive asset or another business-related goal. If small balance savings play such an important role for small businesses to sustain, how much more a loan attached to it can assure small business to grow and help create jobs? Something worth exploring going forward.
  • Beyond business investments, approximately 20% of customers used their savings to cover household needs or to finance educational needs.
  • 32% of customers across the target FSPs, indicated that they had experienced some type of shock since they opened their account. 65% of customers who reported experiencing one or multiple shocks indicated that they had used some of their savings to cope with these emergencies.
  • Gender and age aspects matter hugely, but also location and income levels for driving inclusive savings. The research observed differences between ways in which young female customers and young male customers used their savings. Young males more frequently use their savings for business-related purposes, while young females more often use savings for consumption smoothing and for other household-related expenses.

12 unique business models tested

Scale2Save tested and explored 12 very unique business models with a broad range of financial services partners to prove the viability of low balance savings and understand how the institutional model affects the ability to serve the low-income market. Seven of these service partners being WSBI members of which three (BRAC Uganda Bank Limited, Finca Uganda, LAPO Microfinance Bank Nigeria) joined the WSBI family through Scale2Save.

  • The variety of institutions created a whole world of experience that all worked towards the same goal: build partnerships and solutions that are intentional and simple but meet the needs of the specific customer segments they are serving.
  • Sometime this journey was painful, accompanied by repeated trial and error, endless data segmentation and interpolation, all accompanied by an enormous agenda for cultural change to sensitize all value chain actors for what it takes to offer digital savings to low-income people.
  • Here again, female preferences as for the type of information they wish to receive have to be taken into account. It was revealing to us that, across the board, product features seemed to matter less to women than information about channel features and fee structures followed by the need for personal touch points.
  • Digital has been a game changer throughout and not just during COVID but needs to be handled with a gender lens and accompanied by human touch if it is to be successful. If a product worked for women, it equally tended to work for men.
  • The local sales forces, roving agents, field officers, family & friends equipped with digital devices were incremental for creating the volumes of transactions and deposits needed for making the business case for small balance savings work.
  • Financial education – in particular personal nudges – that take women needs and the digital gender gap into account are considered incremental for improving digital account usage.

 

Research

Scale2Save became a strong brand and a community of practice that conducted useful sector research, collaborated with a wide array of sector players and that facilitates disseminating the learnings amongst our members and strategic partners.

Our sector research

For four years in a row, The State of Savings and Retail Banking Sector Series that we put out in partnership with FinMark Trust shed light on innovative models, applied by the now 27 WSBI member institutions in 20 countries on the African continent, sometimes enriched with insights from other sector players such as MNOs, Fintechs, the national Financial Sector Deepening units, the most recent on the state of SME Finance and separately on Innovative Agric Platform models on the African continent.

 

Collaboration with sector players

  • Jointly with Efina (the lead Financial Sector Development Organization in Nigeria) we piloted a customer segmentation tool that creates different customer personas and allows Nigerian financial sector players to define their pro-women or pro-youth financial outreach strategies and that has already generated interest from other financial markets.
  • Together with Centenary Bank and Bank of Uganda (BoU)– the Central Bank – we tested the CGAP customer outcome framework. This framework could help Ugandan FSPs to assess how they meet customer needs around safety, convenience, fairness, voice and choice of services. It can also help the Ugandan and other central banks to assess how the sector meets the goals of its financial inclusion strategy.
  • Insights from Scale2Save allowed us to participate in the European Microfinance Platform’s Action Group on better metrics for savings.

We now have a better understanding of the metrics that track high-level outcomes. This will help WSBI to better tell the story about the huge impact its network has to develop people, businesses and communities.

 

Ongoing dissemination of our learnings to the membership and the wider sector

Our national inclusion events with partners and ecosystem players in Lagos (Nigeria), in Kampala (Uganda) and our close out event in Paris (France) this year received overwhelming interest amongst a couple hundred sector players. In addition, Scale2Save will has put out more than 100 case studies, learning papers, industry reports and blog pieces over the course of its lifetime.

Scale2Save officially ended on 31 August and closed administratively over the course of October. The team however continues unpacking the learnings coming out of Scale2Save on women, youth and farmers, to highlight what drives their economic activity, empowerment and customer engagement, also with a view of continue contributing with learnings to WSBI member best practice exchange and to the ongoing conversation of industry players about financial services’ contribution to impact and wider outcome goals.

For the past six years, Scale2Save has highlighted our African members’ contribution to inclusive finance. Our aim is to have more members benefit from this experience and join our community of practice, which nurtures the role that WSBI members play. It has been a great pleasure to be part of this journey and we thank all our team members, partners institutions, consultants, researchers, national development bodies and policy makers as well as our sponsors the Mastercard Foundation for six years filled with learnings and excitement. We will continue sharing Scale2Save outcomes to keep the momentum alive and raise awareness of the power of the WSBI network.

About the author: Weselina Angelow is WSBI’s Scale2Save Programme Director.

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Application of CGAP Customer Outcomes Framework in Uganda

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

The case study has applied the CGAP customer outcome indicator framework to test the impact of a new basic savings product positioned in the financial inclusion market and designed to encourage digital and/or remote account opening and transactions.

As a member of the WSBI and part of the Scale2Save program, a prominent retail bank volunteered this product for a case study.

The objective was to assess if the CGAP customer outcome indicator framework could be applied as a measuring tool to determine whether or not:

  • The design, positioning, performance and management of the product are working as intended;
  • The product is indeed improving the lives of target customers;
  • The bank is contributing to Uganda’s Financial Inclusion goals.

The CGAP customer outcomes indicators are generated from supply-side data and can be used internally by providers to measure their levels of customer-centricity. The ultimate objective, however, is for the jurisdiction’s authorities to have a quantifiable, comparable and consistent way to:

  • Detect which strategies, policies, practices, activities, products/services work for or against the customer;
  • Assess the impact of financial services at a market level for all customer segments; and
  • Determine if, and to what extent, providers in the sector are improving or detracting from national goals.

Since the focus of the Uganda case study is Financial Inclusion, focusing on savings, the jurisdiction-specific context was informed by the Bank of Uganda’s (BoU) Financial Inclusion Strategy, 2017. The five main strategic goals classified twenty gaps that the BoU had set out to address. These gaps were therefore used as the basis to map the global CGAP indicators to Uganda’s context.

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African woman trader

The art of change

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

A practical approach to changing behaviors of financial service providers for more meaningful outreach to  low-income people.

During six years of implementation, the Scale2Save programme for financial inclusion gathered significant learning on institutional transformation. This publication explores the leanings from change management processes within the programme’s partner financial service providers.

Is change possible without changing our behaviours and habits? No. Change is not possible without changing the way we do things. And this requires close accompaniment, trust, and energy.

This paper analyses the processes Scale2Save implemented with LAPO Microfinance Bank in Nigeria,  ADVANS Côte d’Ivoire and BRAC Uganda Bank Limited.

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Leading and managing change to reach low-income savers in Nigeria

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

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Leading and managing change to reach low-income savers in Nigeria | A case study of LAPO MFB June 2022

In August 2018, LAPO Microfinance Bank partnered with the World Savings Bank Institute (WSBI) to develop and implement a change management programme to underpin its launch of the savings product, My Pikin & I (MPI). The five-year programme scale2save (S2S) programme, managed by the WSBI, promotes financial inclusion. Its aim is to aid financial institutions to target those who are financially excluded, and to encourage the unbanked to open accounts and build a savings record giving them access to transaction banking and other financial services such as credit or insurance. When this succeeds, it helps increase self-esteem, self-confidence and entrepreneurship.

LAPO Microfinance Bank, a Scale2Save partner, is a Nigerian lender with over 7,000 staff and more than 500 branches throughout Nigeria, serving over five million clients. In 2018, as part of its collaboration with the Scale2Save programme, it introduced a savings product backed by health insurance and scholarship grants for those maintaining sustained balances.

This was a major mission extension for LAPO; when LAPO lends money as a microfinance institution, a customer arrives at the branch with empty pockets and walks out with cash, leaving the risks at LAPO. but in a savings rationale, the situation is reversed: the customer arrives at the institution with cash aand walks out with empty pockets, assuming the risk that his/her funds will be safeguarded.

To succeed as a deposit-taker requires that the customer has much more faith in a financial institution, to trust it with her or his hard-earned savings. To assume this new role, the institution’s customer advisors must gain understanding of the customer, deploy empathy, and work harder to build the trust of the customer in the institution. Communication must be clear, transparent and consistent.

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BRAC Uganda working in Covid times

Maintaining customer and investor confidence during Covid

Improved liquidity position allows financial service providers to focus on pandemic recovery

The Covid-19 pandemic is the latest crisis that is putting pressure on financial service providers (FSPs) globally. Lockdowns and regulatory moratoriums on loan repayments, together with a lower business activity are putting serious constraints on FSP’s liquidity positions. Early in the Covid pandemic, there was widespread concern that liquidity constraints could wipe out many of the financial institutions that serve low-income customers and small- and medium sized enterprises.

Two recent reports issued by CFI/e-MFP and CGAP point to the vital importance of managing liquidity in the midst of a crisis. After all, the quickest path to failure of an FSP is running out of cash. Available liquidity should be used to retain the confidence and trust of both customers and creditors while continuing to operate and paying staff.  Once stability is achieved, an FSP can start its recovery, but this cannot be achieved without retaining the confidence of customers, investors, staff, and the regulator.

Evidence of successful crisis response

Scale2Save is a partnership between WSBI and the Mastercard Foundation to establish the viability of small-scale savings in six African countries. To analyse the impact of the Covid crisis on the liquidity profile of our partner FSPs, we compared the pre-crisis liquidity position at end of year 2019 with that at end of 2020 when a cautious and gradual recovery of the Covid pandemic had set in. Across our programme partners, we collected liquidity gap reports from four banks and three deposit taking microfinance institutions in four countries: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Morocco, and Uganda.

Liquidity risk arises from both the difference between the size of positions of assets and liabilities and the mismatch in their maturities. When the maturity of assets and liabilities differ, an FSP might experience a shortage of cash and therefore a liquidity gap. A liquidity gap report profiles assets and liabilities into relevant maturity groupings based on contractual maturity dates and is an important tool in monitoring overall liquidity risk exposure. A liquidity gap report is a standard disclosure included in audited financial statements of our project partner institutions.

Increased customer deposit balances

All partner financial institutions increased their customer deposit volume at the end of 2020 compared to pre-Covid crisis level. Perhaps more importantly, they also mostly managed to increase the proportion of customer deposit funding as part of total liabilities, as seen in the graph below.

The partner banks seem to have been more successful in increasing deposit volume compared to microfinance institutions. However, caution needs to be taken in generalising this conclusion as country and institution specific factors are also at play.

Lower dependency on borrowed funds

International creditors have been very supportive to banks and microfinance institutions during the Covid crisis, granting waivers for breaches of loan covenants, providing for temporary suspensions of interest and loan repayments, restructuring of loan terms and new financing. However, given the ample liquidity available from customer funding and the higher cost associated with international borrowings and debt issuance, most partner institutions chose to run-off these borrowings during 2020 lowering the proportion of borrowings in the funding mix. The average maturity of outstanding debt dropped as a result, as the following graph reveals.

Improved liquidity profile

The maturity of customer loans and advances increased during the crisis due to loan moratoriums and the related rescheduling and restructuring. The loan maturity loan terms of all partner FSPs extended, with one example of a 216% increase, seen below, in the case of an institution which generally has extremely short loan maturities.

On the liability side, contractual maturities of funding decreased for all partner FSPs, except one.  This was mainly the result of international borrowings that expired or that were not rolled over.

When considered from the perspective of contractual maturities, the combination of lengthening loan terms and shorter funding maturities would suggest a worsening of the structural liquidity position of an FSP. However, the anticipated maturity of retail customer current accounts, security and savings deposits is often much longer than their contractual maturity, when taking into account the behavioural characteristics of a large and diversified pool of individual accounts that exhibit “stickiness”. Only a proportion of these retail customer balances will be drawn down on contractual maturity date and the entire pool provides a more stable, long-term source of funding.

This point can be illustrated with reference to the international liquidity standards issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for the calculation of expected cash outflows for two key liquidity risk indicators, the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) and the net stable funding ratio (NSFR). The Basel standards assume that between 3% and 10% of retail deposits[1] would actually run-off over the next 30 days under an adverse liquidity scenario. The corollary of this is that 90-97% of retail deposit funding can be considered to be stable in nature and of longer duration. As short-term customer account funding (<30days) of our partner institutions make up a significant proportion of the total customer funding (between 30% and 90%), a large part of these funds can therefore be considered as “core” and provide a stable funding base to compensate for the extended loan maturities from Covid impacted loan rescheduling.

The Basel global liquidity standards are meant as guidance and FSPs operating in less developed markets and more volatile environments may experience higher deposit run-off rates in case of liquidity stress.  Nevertheless, a significant proportion of our partners’ customer account and savings balances can be considered as stable.

Institutional resilience in face of the Covid crisis

At the outset of the Covid crisis, our partner institutions invoked their pandemic crisis management plan and took protective measures for customers and staff to prevent infection and transmission.  Partner institutions granted credit relief to borrowers in the form of loan moratoriums in line with regulatory forbearance measures.  Digital access to customer accounts was stepped up, so customers could meet household consumption expenditure during the lockdown.

Our partners have withstood the liquidity stress induced by the Covid crisis and successfully retained the confidence of customers and investors.  With a cautious and gradual recovery from the Covid pandemic underway, FSPs can now focus on recovery steps higher up the hierarchy of financial institutions crisis management needs.  These needs were described in the CFI/e-MFP report in the following order of priority: liquidity, confidence, portfolio and capital.

With stability restored, FSPs can now shift their recovery efforts to managing the loan portfolio by balancing collections of overdue loans with the need to continue lending to reliable low-income customers and small- and medium-sized enterprises and maintaining capital adequacy levels when Covid-related regulatory forbearance measures will expire.

Through surveys and case studies the Scale2Save programme continues to investigate the driving factors that influence the different outcomes of Covid crisis management.

A blog published on the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP). To read the original version (including graphs) visit this page.

related


Covid-19 impacts microfinance

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.


​​Benchmarking an MFI’s liquidity risk in the context of the MIX Market peer group analysis

Covid-19 impacts microfinance

​​Benchmarking an MFI’s liquidity risk in the context of the MIX Market peer group analysis
​The following piece appears on the covid-finclusion.org blogsite.​

Surviving the liquidity crunch
The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting financial service providers and has an immediate impact on their liquidity management. Cash and cash-like assets help to ensure survival of financial services providers in a liquidity crisis situation, as was pointed out in a previous essay by e-MFP’s Daniel Rozas posted on this website.
Liquidity stress felt by FSPs can come from a surge in deposit withdrawals by customers, continuing operational expenses and maturing debt obligations. At the same time, loan repayments and new deposit inflows will be largely “frozen”. The impact of reduced liquidity is acutely felt by microfinance institutions as they typically do not have access to emergency liquidity funding from the Central Bank, as they are not licensed nor regulated to operate as commercial banks.
The impact analysis of Covid-19 related liquidity stress on microfinance institutions worldwide using the historical data collected via MIX Market and published as part of this liquidity series contributes in a significant way to the discussion on how to best address the liquidity crisis and ensure continuity of viable MFIs. The liquidity run-off analysis and stress test-based approach presented in the article are in line with international standards, for example as issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for banks through the Principles for Sound Liquidity Risk Management and Supervision (2008, revised in 2019).
Under the liquidity coverage approach introduced as part of the Basel III framework revisions a financial institution should hold a sufficient level of unencumbered, high-quality liquid assets that can be converted to cash to meet the liquidity needs during a time period under a liquidity stress scenario. For internationally active banks, the survival period has been defined as 30 calendar days, by which time it is assumed that appropriate corrective actions can be taken by management and supervisors, or that the bank can be resolved in an orderly way. As MFIs lack direct access to much-sought Central Bank funding, longer survival periods may be more appropriate for actions to be taken that ensure business continuity of the institution. A three to six-month time horizon used in the earlier essay therefore seems to be an appropriate time horizon for liquidity risk analysis of MFIs.

Scale2 Save programme
Scale2Save is a partnership between WSBI and Mastercard Foundation to establish the viability of small-scale savings in six African countries with 11 project partners. The six-year programme aims for 1 million more people banked in those countries through FSP partnerships using innovative models.
The programme sought to evaluate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the financial soundness of its partner institutions and assess the implications for the programme. A comparative analysis was performed by benchmarking the liquidity position of the partner institutions in relation to the MIX Market peer group analysis.

Liquidity regulatory ratios for deposit taking MFIs
Prior to benchmarking some of our partner FIs in the context of the MIX Market peer group, we completed a soundness check against the liquidity ratios and indicators used by regulators as part of their prudential supervision of MFIs. Deposit taking MFIs are typically supervised by the Central Bank in their country of operation and are required to report liquidity ratios on a monthly basis. A lack of compliance with these liquidity ratios would already present challenges to the continuity of the MFI in the best of times.

 

These “stock-based” balance sheet liquidity ratios have shortcomings in that they may not fully reflect liquidity risk emanating from a specific stress scenario such as the Covid-19 crisis. A dynamic approach using an appropriate Covid-19 stress test scenario and liquidity coverage metrics, as used in the peer group analysis, provides a much-improved perspective on the liquidity risk profile of the FI under the current Covid-19 circumstances.

Liquidity risk profile of our partner financial institutions
Using the latest available financial data, we have compared our partner FIs against the MIX Market peer group analysis presented in the essay published on this site. As our partner MFIs are all deposit taking with deposits / assets greater than 10%, the following metrics prove relevant (All MFIs are based in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and belong to the larger institution category, with assets > USD 25 million):

The Cash Deposit Ratio: (Cash minus 3-month operating expenses) / deposits

The Cash Debt Ratio: (Cash minus 3-month operating expenses less 10% of deposits) / debt.

We observed a variation in liquidity metrics across our partner institutions where the majority of Scale2Save partner MFIs can cover three months of operating expenses and meet at least 20% of customer deposits. This would put the institutions in the top half of the deposit-taking MFI peer group (N=356), where they are able to meet the 10% of deposit outflows that they may experience as a result of withdrawals by customers in a liquidity stress scenario.
In terms of the ability of our partner MFI to meet maturing debt repayments, we observe quite a large spread, with most in the 50% to 100% debt coverage bracket, which would mean they could comfortably meet the quarter of all debt that is, on average, due in the next six months, where the average maturity of debt from foreign investors to FSPs is 22 months. Those partner institutions that do not meet the 25% maturing debt coverage criteria are obviously of concern and their debt repayment profile warrants further investigation and careful attention.

Quality of cash matters
The quality of liquid assets forms an important assumption in the liquidity run-off analysis. Cash and cash equivalents should be of high-quality, readily available, or that can be easily converted into cash to meet liquidity outflows under the Covid-19 stress scenario.
We undertook a further analysis of the cash and cash equivalents on the balance sheets of our partner institutions. Not surprisingly, we found that 60% to 90% of liquid assets are held in the form of current accounts and term deposits at other domestic financial institutions, usually at a range of different commercial banks. The exception is Nigeria, where MFIs are required to hold between 5% and 10% of deposit liabilities in the form of Treasury bills, and therefore the share of bank deposits in liquid assets gravitate to the lower end of the range.

Having a noticeably large proportion of liquidity held at other financial institutions presents a risk when these institutions themselves encounter liquidity issues and the MFI may not be able to access its funds. Liquidity problems in the banking sector could therefore spill over into the MFI sector. This presents possibly an area where Central Banks could take targeted measures to ensure that liquidity withdrawals by MFI at their banks be honoured in a timely fashion.

Communication updates
The benchmarking analysis provided the programme with a very useful comparison and assessment of the relative position of our partner institutions in the context of a worldwide MFI peer group. In a fast-evolving situation such as the Covid-19 crisis, timely information on the liquidity position will be of the essence. MFIs are encouraged to use the standardized Crisis Assessment Tool (CAT) developed by the MIV coordination group to provide their investors and international cooperation partners up-to-date information on the impact Covid-19 has had on their operations and financial position.

Rob Kaanen is a consultant with the WSBI/Mastercard Foundation Scale2Save programme.

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