The 25th Annual SEEP Conference ended Friday after five days of sessions for microenterprise practitioners to learn and connect on the challenges and opportunities faced by microfinance institutions and policymakers.
A number of Opportunity staff were at the Arlington, Va. conference, including SVP of technology Daryl Skoog, director of knowledge management Estelle Berger, COO ofOpportunity Mozambique Diana Cazacu, VP of program management Simona Haiduc, and more.
Opportunity was an associate partner for the conference and co-hosted a breakfast workshop with the Omidyar Network on Wednesday called “E-Banking with Agent Networks.” Presenters were Daryl Skoog; Gino Picasso, CEO of GTV GloboKasNet, LLC (GKN), working with some of the largest MFIs in Peru; and Diana Cazacu. The breakfast was well-attended by microfinance practitioners, despite the early hour, and the panelists were presented with many follow-up questions afterwards.
The session addressed the question: “What’s involved in deploying a dynamic agent network that works seamlessly with an MFI’s operations?”
Agent networks are networks of local business owners and community members who operate MFIs’ e-banking terminals and point-of-sale (POS) devices in various locations on their behalf. Opportunity program manager Annsley Scruton-Wilson attended the breakfast session and reported a few key learnings:
- With agent networks, the client benefits from increased security and the MFIs have reduced costs because customers make transactions themselves.
- 10% of banking transactions in Peru are done through agents.
- Legislative support is critical. In Peru, banking laws were enacted before agent networks were put in place.
- In Mozambique, the bank and clients chose to join M-PESA (a highly popular cell phone carrier serving 9 million people in Kenya) because it allowed clients to receive loan disbursements through their phones and agents.
- For repayments, Mozambican clients use POS devices in their Trust Group meetings–which gives them a physical receipt for their disbursement.
Opportunity has made great strides in bringing innovative financial offerings to its clients. “We are not always the first to implement banking technologies,” says Scruton-Wilson, “but we are on the front lines in terms of offering clients a wide variety of options with which to conduct banking–whether it be through standard or electronic, stable or mobile means. Opportunity’s commitment to technology is evident in the many partnerships it has created with technology providers–from those with GloboKasNet to Temenos T24. As the market changes, our team has demonstrated an ability to adapt and change with the market in order to offer clients the very best banking services available, no matter how far they are located from one of our bank branches.”
For more coverage of the 2010 Annual SEEP Conference on the Opportunity Blog, click here.