International Women’s Day special report: LAPO addresses financial challenges women face
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While conducting business, they often confront a lack of access to affordable credit. Constrained to short-term loans, poor women depend on moneylenders who charge exploitative rates as high as 300% per annum. This worsens their poverty and financial distress.
LAPO, a microfinance bank, looks to help. A Scale2Save partner, they aim to empower women in business, promote savings culture, and to provide easy access to education amongst other benefits. For example, they address financial challenges women face through provision of financial products and services with affordable conditions.
One offer opens credit access to Nigerian women through its “Supporting Female Entrepreneurs (SUFEN)” loan. They promote savings by women through its Scale2save-supported My Pikin & I savings account. The offer primarily targets women who either fall in the low-income bracket, are unbanked, own micro- or small-scale enterprises or living in rural, semi-urban and urban centers.
The account enables existing and prospective clients to start saving with as low as 200 Naira. A multiple of N5,000 saved for three months presents clients the opportunity to qualify for one year of free fire, theft and disability insurance. Saving N60,000 for six months qualifies a client’s child for a LAPO education scholarship. Women able to save N150, 000 for 12 months earn an additional two percentage points on an existing 4.05% interest on their savings. That moves the rate to 6.05% - edging out most banks who compete in this highly populous west African country.
An innovated approach for women
Carefully designed with an extremely low entry requirement of N200, the LAPO My Pikin & I savings account ensures greater numbers of disadvantaged women have product access. The deliberate milestone criteria requirement to enable clients to take full advantage of the various benefits aims at inculcating savings habits in women and to ensure that the target audience are not disenfranchised. The provision of one-year free fire, burglar and disability insurance seeks to provide additional cover to both mother and child to re-assure and elevate their social status as well as self-confidence.
The uniquely designed product focuses on women, and its dynamics – low threshold entry, gradual but consistent savings, as well as milestones to take advantage of benefits – clearly defined to achieve female inclusion. Mother and child benefit from micro-insurance, while the education scholarship gives a needed boost for the young one. LAPO’s “milestone” model encourages consistent savings to be able to take full advantage of the product benefits.
LAPO’s client base, staff levels mostly women
The microfinance bank takes a deliberate and focused attempt to boost women empowerment across clients and staff alike. With more that 4.5 million customers as of January 2020, 73% are women/. Women make up 57% of its 7,476-strong workforce. To ensure its clients and prospective clients enjoy unfettered access to this product, LAPO deploys 1,300 agents, 105 agent banking officers, a dedicated 24/7 call centre and more than 490 branches across 34 out of 36 states within the country. Clients also can take full advantage of its benefits, thereby, defining better adoption and inclusion.
Change your best: Serving women better
A review of LAPO’s My Pikin & I savings account current statistics reveal that women make up 85% of its more than 18,000 client base as of January 2020. Evidencece from data analysed suggests a dramatic change in the way women adopt and use savings as a tool of financial inclusion, economic empowerment and bridging several other forms of social challenges. The products’ education scholarship benefit is one of the factors that motivates them to save. This feature provides some relief for mothers, who not only save to ensure a better future for their family while oftentimes shepherding the education of children living within the household.
Beyond the product, LAPO’s see value in well-trained staff who give support, and to deliver to women exceptional service.
Dr. Godwin Ehigiamusoe, Ph.D., Managing Director at LAPO, said: “Clients adopt savings because LAPO provides value beyond savings. Trust and mutual respect have deepened thanks to a personalised client engagement model. LAPO goes one step further by providing training for micro-businesses to help strengthen their business savvy.
“We take a full-service, committed approach with people who look to us for financial services. From our prompt insurance claims payment follow up, scholarship disbursement to other benefits. Coupled with our regular stakeholder engagement/education guarantee we drive sustained behavioral change. That change uplifts women in their daily lives.”