Ecatepec, Mexico: Here you can save for retirement

By Fermín Vivanco

Low-income, self-employed workers in Latin America and the Caribbean have been out of the spotlight of pension funds and the institutions that promote retirement savings. But now there are new initiatives that aim to change this. A story to analyze at Foromic in Santiago, Chile.

Time to Think

By Fermín Vivanco

12 years ago, only a bare hillside and a crop of onions separated Marino's house from Lake La Cocha, at more than 2,600 meters above sea level, in the department of Nariño, Colombia. Today the lake view is adorned by a variety of trees, including several native species of La Cocha that Marino has been replanting in recent years. Trees protect and nourish cabbages, beans, racachas, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini, gooseberries, and a long list of crops in his small piece of land. "Every day you plant something," says Marino, who grows a dozen varieties of potatoes.

Microfinance places hope in big data, but other things are also needed

By Fermín Vivanco

What a micro lender does after giving a loan matters too

Microfinance was created in part because banks were not meeting the needs of the large segments of the population. One of the barriers to reaching those segments was the fact that formal credit records for those clients were nonexistent, leading microfinance institutions to consider other information instead. And for decades, the microcredit industry has considered two main factors when doing credit analysis: ability and willingness to pay.  

Looking behind the picture of mobile money

By Fermín Vivanco

The argument goes like this: “Most people in developing countries have mobile phones, so voilà, they could use those phones to access financial services”. It sounds reasonable.  For many, mere use of a mobile phone for financial services seems to be exciting enough. These days, some people even think that mobile financial services will eventually make banks obsolete.  If you visit many of the donor-sponsored websites that pay homage to mobile financial services, such as Better than Cash, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, Financial Access Initiative, Mobile Money for the Unbanked, and others, you are likely to find photos of entrepreneurs with a mobile phone and a smile.  The pictures are powerful, but what do they mean? What, exactly, is the positive effect of using of mobile phones for financial services?

No one visits the microentrepreneur

By Fermín Vivanco

Photo: Javier Davila, breakwaybackpacker

Technology can complement a good client relationship, but it cannot replace it

A good client relationship is essential to the business models for financial inclusion in the region. There is a risk of weakening this relationship if it is channeled solely through electronic means.

These days, the MIF is starting an evaluation in Paraguay of Tigo Money: Last Mile Mobile Financial Services, the first project within the Technologies for Financial Inclusion (Tec-In) Program  to reach the finish line. Among other things, the evaluation will help us better understand clients’ experiences in applying for credit via mobile devices through Credicedula. This is a signature product of Tigo Paraguay, winner of the 2014 Inter-American Award on Digital Finance, and Banco Familiar, winner of theBeyond Banking Award 2015 - both presented by the IDB. Through Credicedula, clients apply for credit directly from their cellphones, without having to contact a loan officer or visit the officer at a branch.