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Praxis Series - Entry 2: Don’t forget the loan officers!
Although youth between the ages of 18 - 30 often represent between 15 - 30% of total active clients in MFI portfolios, they are often labeled as undesirable and risky and many more youth applicants are turned away by Microfinance institutions (MFIs). MEDA's financial institution partners in Morocco, Attadamoune Microfinance and INMAA, wanted their staff to better engage with youth clients as they saw youth as a segment with great market potential. These innovative MFIs – with MEDA support - developed a training program to train frontline staff better address the financial needs of young clients. MEDA documented the efficacy of this training and explored any stated youth client interaction change amongst loan officers (LOs) and MFI staff in our recent Loan Officer Case Study.
The sessions within the training helped LOs and staff identify new techniques for prospecting potential youth clients and provided fundamental training on financial education (only 34% of LOs had been exposed to financial education sessions previously). The LOs added that due to the training, they would be able to improve their communication with youth, aid in increasing the share of youth in their respective portfolios, be able to better cater to youth clients, and provide them the basic information on budgeting, debt management, savings and financial negotiation (all sessions covered in financial education training).
In many ways, the training has made MFI staff more attuned to youth. LOs cited numerous advantages of working with youth: their drive and ambition, desire to improve themselves, perseverance, hope, and inexhaustible energy. An LO from INMAA asserted that youth are full of innovative ideas. Youth are often said to be more open-minded than adults, "they understand rules and procedures better," declared Nezha El Amari, from Attadamoune. The graph below shows how participants of the training rated the importance of targeting youth for MFIs pre and post-training.
By the conclusion of MEDA's support to MFI frontline staff, we found a significant increase in 2 MFIs loan renewals amongst youth clients.
Average Change in MFIs' Portfolios of Renewing Youth Clients
So often as implementers we'll work with MFIs providing technical assistance on product design and ensuring we get the product right...and don't get me wrong that is essential. But more often part of the design needs to take a closer look and engage with the MFI staff that directly engages with the client segment we are so desperately trying to reach in the most effective way. MEDA's frontline staff training helped loan officers and branch managers actually have the opportunity to understand why the youth market has so much potential and real tangible strategies and information to engage them and retain these clients potentially for the long haul. What we saw here was an MFI taking the time to not only invest into clients but to invest into their staff, we hope to see more of this.
In what ways are you working with frontline staff to engage youth clients?
What are other areas of staff training are required to better reach young clients? How are you offering this type of capacity building? Are MFIs absorbing these costs or are you seeing them to be donor subsidized?