Under the terms of the grant, ACCION will work with the microfinance institutions (MFIs) BancoSol in Bolivia, Finamérica in Colombia and Credife in Ecuador to expand beyond their current focus on microlending by offering savings products tailored to the needs of their poor clients. For each partner, the project will include developing appropriate savings products, marketing and piloting those products, and introducing appropriate hardware, software and technology systems to integrate savings into their offerings.
Each partner MFI will seek to develop alternative channels of service delivery, such as mobile banking, non-banking correspondents, ATMs or POS to extend their outreach further to underserved populations. As a result of these activities, ACCION anticipates that its three partners will reach more than a million savings clients in five years and that ACCION will develop a proven, replicable savings model for Latin America. ACCION, in turn, will build its internal capacity to help other partners implement savings programs.
"This signature package of grants represents our first bold effort with the microfinance community to provide poor people safe places to save their money," said Bob Christen, director of Financial Services for the Poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We see it as a major step to drive change and help broaden the microfinance business model to include savings.
"Until now, savings accounts have been too costly and inconvenient for the poor to obtain, and too expensive for banks to provide to clients who deposit just a few dollars at a time," said Michael Schlein, President and CEO of ACCION International. "Meeting these needs sustainably, and ensuring these services reach the poorest, will require new models and approaches. We are tremendously grateful to the Gates Foundation for providing us and our partners with the resources to innovate on this new frontier."
This grant to ACCION is part of the Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor initiative, which is working with a wide range of public and private partners to harness technology and innovation to bring quality, affordable savings accounts and other financial services to the doorsteps of the poor in the developing world. The foundation believes that setting aside small sums in a safe place allows people to guard against risks, build assets, and provide opportunities for the next generation.
ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $50 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 28.5 million loans totaling more than $23.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid.