The premier event for microenterprise development practitioners
Resources for PressThe SEEP Annual Conference is the premier event for microenterprise development practitioners from around the world to meet face-to-face on the greatest opportunities and challenges in microfinance and enterprise development. Important announcements and industry reports are typically released at this annual event. For interviews with conference presenters, reports, and announcements, contact SEEP.
2011 Media Roundtable on Global Savings
For the first time, SEEP hosted a roundtable discussion designed to answer questions and increase awareness among journalists, bloggers, and writers on the topic of global savings.
Rosita Najmi on the problem of financial and social exclusion:
"Can financial citizenship begin at birth? FAB [Financial Access at Birth] believes that it can, and also has an unwavering belief that every human life deserves access to the dignity of financial citizenship. Now you might be wondering, what's this all about? What are the other human development challenges to which this could respond? First and foremost, it does aim to respond to the issue of exclusion. More than half of the world's adult population, 2.7 billion people, continues to lack access to formal financial services. Second, in the developing world more than 50% of births go unregistered. That has consequences in a number of other spheres: future access to social service provisions, health and education."
Kate Griffin on evidence that customer service matters in reaching the poor:
"At CARD Bank [in the Philippines], where over half of their clients are living under the $2.50 a day poverty line, we were not only able to get over the last two years 175,000 new savers - just getting new accounts is not necessarily a measure of success, opening those accounts doesn't mean that people are using those accounts... In the last 2 years we've seen a 4% growth in the average balances year on year in the Philippines and we see more activity in the accounts. When we started the project 69% of CARD's accounts saw a transaction over a 60 day period and that measure is up to 80% today. All of that is not due to some dramatic change in the actual products that CARD is offering; rather it has a lot to do with changing the customer service orientation of the bank itself."
Dr. Rashid Bajwa on the role of policy advocacy in microfinance's fastest growing market for branchless banking:
"In Pakistan we are a country of 180 million people and only 2 - 3.6 million are actual clients of microfinance... There are structural issues related to how to cross this barrier... When these issues were raised by the Pakistan Microfinance Network at the policy level, we were able to convince the central banks to come in and provide structural support so that microfinance providers get enabled to offer savings products... But that was not enough... this brick and mortar savings was too costly for the banks as well as for the clients... So what the central bank did lately was that they offered microfinance service providers another legal cover which is what we called branchless banking. It allowed Tel Cos as well as commercial banks to offer financial services at a fraction of the cost, with an efficiency that was incredible. In two years' time, we are witnessing a sea change. Already, there are about 700,000 branches which have opened up, and as a result there are about 18,500 agents who are working through these branches, so that every corner shop becomes a branch."
Nathanael Goldberg on key lessons from IPA research on the financial lives of the poor:
"There are 3 key points. First, the poor don't just have low income, they have irregular income. That means that they have to find a way to turn irregular streams of money into useful lump sums that they can use for school fees and housing and things like that. Second, even the very poor have the capacity to save. Research from household surveys across 13 countries, households under even a dollar a day, show that these households make a lot of decisions about spending their money... They themselves have indicated that they would like a way to change their spending patterns to put more money into savings for the future. Finally, we see that poor households have very rich financial lives, and they engage in a multitude of financial products at the same time, and they do this because they're poor, not despite their poverty. They need to find a way to make those irregular streams of income work for them."
About the Panelists
Rosita Najmi, the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International
Rosita is Program Manager for FAB: Financial Access at Birth, currently hosted by the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International. FAB aims to help bank the unbanked by starting financial citizenship at birth with a savings account connected to an opening deposit, universal ID, and mobile banking.
Kate Druschel Griffin, Grameen Foundation
Kate is director of Grameen Foundation's Solutions for the Poorest program, an initiative designed to give the world’s poorest people access to reliable business opportunities and financial management tools, particularly savings. Its Microsavings Initiative has helped to create over 450,000 new savers at microfinance institutions in India, Ethiopia and the Philippines, and is providing a model for dispelling some of the common myths about poor people’s ability to save.
Dr. Rashid Bajwa, Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN)
Rashid is Chairman of the Pakistan Microfinance Network and the CEO of the National Rural Support Programme. Pakistan has created a regulatory environment conducive both to microsavings and branchless banking, and deposit-taking microfinance banks have in recent years provided a million accounts to those who previously lacked access. It is the fastest growing market for branchless banking.
Nathanael Goldberg, Innovations for Poverty Action
Nathanael is Policy Director at Innovations for Poverty Action, an organization that creates, evaluates, and replicates innovative approaches to solving real-world problems faced by the poor in developing countries. Innovations for Poverty Action has conducted significant research on the imact of savings on the financial lives of the poor.