Inclusive finance has proven to be a successful approach to support social and business entrepreneurs, empower families and provide financial services to those that do not have access to regular banking.
However, maximising the contribution that inclusive finance makes to the objective of inclusiveness – and making sure potential negative side effects can be prevented or mitigated – have led to the need to develop practical guidance to secure responsible inclusive finance practices.
Like all asset owners and investment managers, investors or fund managers investing in inclusive finance have a duty to act in the long-term interests of their clients. The guidelines below are based on the seven original Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF).
Range of services
Actively support retail providers to innovate and expand the range of financial services available to low income people in order to help them reduce their vulnerability, build assets, manage cash-flow and increase incomes.
Investors in inclusive finance should be clear about the kind of services they want to provide to a diverse range of clients.
Potential clients include micro-enterprises and households, and could include demographically specific target groups, such as the poor/very poor/low income, those in rural areas and/or cities, women or particular minority groups.
Potential services include microenterprise loans, loans for immediate household needs (i.e. consumer loans), and/or housing loans. It is also important to decide whether a microfinance portfolio supports the provision of financial services beyond credit, compulsory savings and/or compulsory insurance.
Client protection is crucial for low-income clients – integrate client protection in investment policies and practices.
Responsible financial inclusion means:
- being fully transparent in the pricing, terms and conditions of all financial products;
- working with clients so that they do not borrow more money than they can repay or use products that they do not need;
- employing respectful collection practices and adopting high ethical standards in the treatment of clients;
- giving clients a way to address their complaints, so that they can be served more effectively;
- ensuring client data remains private;
- protecting clients, businesses, and the industry as a whole.
Investors in inclusive finance should consider publicly endorsing the Client Protection Principles and/or include other client protection measures in investment policies. Investors could provide training and assistance for investees implementing the Client Protection Principles, and encourage investees to apply for Client Protection Certification.
Treat investees fairly with appropriate financing that meets demand, with clear and balanced contracts and with fair processes for resolving disputes.
Part of fair treatment should be clear policy and procedures on responsible approaches to exit. It should also be clear what specific policies or procedures there are on return on equity (ROE) targets or caps on the maximum equity investment exposure of your investees.
Include environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues in investment policies and reporting.
Key elements for a responsible investment approach include:
- a procedure to integrate the consideration of ESG issues in your investment decision processes;
- anti-corruption policies and whistle-blowing policies, at the investor- and investee-level;
- an arrangement to makes sure your investees comply with any potential exclusion policies.
To make sure investments meet responsible investment objectives, tools for social performance reporting such as an independent financial rating, an independent social rating and/or an independent social audit can be used.
Part of the responsible investment approach can be to provide ongoing training or assistance for investees on corporate governance.
Actively promote transparency in all aspects.
An investor’s mission and investment objectives should be communicated to all stakeholders, (e.g. investees and investors). Investors and/or the public will have to be provided with information aligned with industry standards. Encourage investee retail financial institutions to ensure that their services, obligations and other relevant information are transparent and fully explained to their own clients, in a form they can understand.
Strive for a balanced long-term social and financial risk-adjusted return that recognises the interests of clients, retail providers and investors.
To secure balanced returns, indicate if the social performance of investees affects your decision-making and portfolio management.
Collaborate to set harmonised investor standards that support the further development of inclusive finance.
Practical guide for investors in inclusive finance
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