How Microfinance is Lighting Women a Path to their Dreams
Four years ago Elizabeth Diaz Flores was working exhausting hours stocking shelves in a warehouse often until midnight and barely making ends meet. Her days were seemingly as endless as her bills yet her dream of one day owning her own tienda remained as big as the Mexican sky.
Undaunted by the repressive hours of her “day job” and long odds of owning a business, Elizabeth started selling her own handmade items from a cart on a dusty street corner whenever time would allow. With charm and perseverance something magical began to happen. People were drawn to Elizabeth and her products and clientele slowly began to grow.
Her neighbor Marita was impressed and made a suggestion that would change Elizabeth’s career and life forever. The idea was for Elizabeth to join the local Compartamos Banco group since they are a finance organization that provides micro-loans mainly to small businesses of under-served women.
Today, Elizabeth is the proud owner of a grocery and Internet café in San Jose del Cabo called “Minisuper Ely”. She used her first loan from Compartamos Banco to stock her stationary store and install a refrigeration unit within her grocery. Not surprisingly, business is always brisk at this local gathering spot. Elizabeth is a popular and well-respected business owner in the community and she’s now able to use what makes her happy as a reflective surface.
Elizabeth also happens to be the proud recipient of the 2013 Compartamos Microenterprise Award. This prestigious award recognizes customers “who have shown excellence in their careers, vision and community interest by way of their efforts and persistence, thus setting an example for other entrepreneurs to follow”.
Founded with compassion
Compartamos Banco was founded in Mexico City in 1990 by a young impresario named Jose Ignacio Avalos Hernandez. He had an existing nonprofit that provided food and clothing donations to the poor that he decided to expand into an organization that also provided microloans to unbanked women in rural areas.
Mr. Avalos founded Compartamos Banco with a simple, single purpose: “To eradicate the financial exclusion in Latin America”.
Today they are the #1 Latin American Microfinance Bank providing micro-loans, micro-insurance, savings accounts and financial education to the low income, primarily female segment. Incredibly, a full 90% of Compartamos Banco customers are women. With 2.8 million customers, that means that millions of women from low income areas of Mexico have already been provided microloans for their businesses and with that access to a better quality of life.
Founded by altruism, the growth of Compartamos Banco was rapid. However, the transition to a for-profit organization that provided group guaranteed loans, meant an immediate need to confront mounting technological challenges. These challenges included how to expand their products and services to address new segments and new markets. Additionally, they were faced with just how to handle volumes of data from ongoing exponential growth, as well as how to enhance efficiency in the origination and portfolio management process. They also wanted to improve the customer experience and address retention rates while doing so.
The need for speed
To put the challenge facing Compartamos Banco in numerical terms, 4.5 loans per second need to be processed on peak days. Clearly the search for a new platform to support not just massive transactional volume but also to drive innovation was on. To make the case for investing in SAP for Banking solutions, Compartamos Banco participated in the SAP Value Management program. Not only were process improvement requirements identified but potential business benefits and return on investment were calculated. Finally, a method of governance was established to monitor future results against those calculations. Succinctly, the goal of SAP was helping Compartamos Banco generate social, economic and human value with a finely calibrated business model.
Fernando Alvarez Toca, the Chief Services Officer at Gentera which is the holding company of Compartamos Banco, recently put the selection of the SAP Banking Services Platform this way;
“Our mission is to eradicate financial exclusion by providing financial services for low income clients and giving them access to a better life. We decided to choose SAP as a strategic partner because the two companies share a similar commitment. Our dream is to reach 10 million clients and SAP will play a very important role in this”.
You can see Mr. Toca in this brief video.
SAP provides Compartamos Banco with:
. A flexible, single platform with integration in Banking, customer & process management
. Innovative solutions for Banking next practices
. Higher productivity in origination & servicing processes
The deployment of this comprehensive Banking solution continues SAP’s determined role in social commitment and in providing the technology that’s driving financial inclusion around the globe like in India. They also introduced business and technology change to Compartamos Banco, complemented by planning for the future. Likewise, the mission of Compartamos Banco is facilitating the preparation of a financial plan based on each individual’s life plan. Individuals like Elizabeth Diaz Flores.
On a recent cool spring day a student named Guillermo was enjoying the Internet in Elizabeth’s “Minisuper Ely” café. On his way out he went to pay for a protein bar and a healthy juice drink that he would enjoy after his classes. On this day he realizes he’s a few pesos short of the total charge for his items. As he turned to put the juice back Elizabeth tells him not to worry about it, “Muchas Gracias! Guillermo replies. A smiling Elizabeth tells Guillermo just “Pasa el favor” which in English means “pay it forward”.
Meanwhile in Spanish, Compartamos means “let’s share”.
Look what happens when we do that, it lights up a million smiles!