The global financial system has been instrumental in building economies and wealth – but it has failed to reach a third of the world’s population. That failure makes people’s lives much harder, stalls economic development, and stifles innovation. Two billion people struggle daily and are left out by the financial system. We’ve effectively asked billions of people to build a home without a hammer or light a fire without a match – it’s possible, but it’s so much harder than it should be.
We’re trying to change that – to give people the financial tools, services, and capability they need.
This year, Accion created one of the most significant new partnerships in our history with India’s IFMR Holdings. IFMR is reaching some of the most remote and excluded villages in India and providing a broad array of appropriate financial services to help the poor. Other new microfinance institution (MFI) partnerships in Uganda and locations in China will also help meet important local needs.
We underscored our commitment to fintech this year with the first close of the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, managed by Quona Capital. The fund is the first global fintech fund for the financially underserved and allows private investors to support financial inclusion directly.
Accion’s other impact investing vehicle, Venture Lab, continues to cultivate innovative seed-stage fintech products and services. Among other approaches, its 24 impact investments harness micro, small, and medium enterprise financing and alternative data credit analysis for the financially excluded. Both the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund and Venture Lab invest in bold and innovative startups that are finding new ways to meet the financial needs of the underserved.
Financial inclusion requires many different kinds of actors, and these actors can build a healthier sector if they work together to identify and address common challenges. Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion serves as a convener, coordinator, and collaborator among the many stakeholders engaged in financial inclusion. The Center investigates the industry’s most pressing questions and latest trends, such as financial capability, the role of big data, digital financial services, and the rate of progress toward full financial inclusion. As its guiding vision, the Center works to ensure that the client always remains the priority. For example, the Smart Campaign – the world’s first consumer protection campaign for the poor – continues to be one of its flagship programs. To date, 64 financial institutions have been certified as adhering to the Campaign’s standards; collectively, those institutions serve more than 34 million clients.
In Africa, where good governance is critical to economic and social development, the Center’s new Africa Board Fellowship program convenes directors and CEOs around governance best practices and is recruiting its fourth cohort of fellows.
It takes rigorous oversight and organization to even begin addressing an issue affecting two billion people. Charity Navigator recognized Accion’s commitments to these values when it awarded us once again this year with its four-star ranking for transparency, accountability, and fiscal management.
Accion’s work expresses our faith in the billions of men and women who are left out of the economic mainstream. We marvel at their effort, creativity, and dignity, and we understand that providing them with these essential tools can help unleash a tremendous reservoir of energy, insights, and potential. We’re committed to helping them build better lives – and a financially inclusive world.
Thank you for your continued support.
President and CEO
DIANA L. TAYLOR
Microfinance institutions in
32 countries on four continents
Active savers in 2015,
with $5.1 billion in savings deposits
Clients served by
Active borrowers in 2015,
improving the lives of 35 million
family members and employees
Next-generation financial service providers, including microfinance institutions (MFIs), are the foundation of the financial inclusion movement. Accion is working to improve and create additional partnerships throughout the world. Since India and China are home to the majority of the world’s financially excluded, Accion has prioritized both countries, bringing major new investments and programs to each even as we continue to expand across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
This year, Accion created one of its most significant new partnerships with our investment in India’s IFMR Holdings, including its two main subsidiaries, IFMR Rural Channels and IFMR Capital.
IFMR Rural Channels works in villages that are otherwise almost entirely unserved by formal financial institutions and provides a wide range of services to meet the individual needs of more than 300,000 clients. IFMR Capital provides financing to some of the most prominent and best-rated financial inclusion intermediaries in India, which in turn serve 15 million households.
Accion’s other Indian microfinance partners, Saija Finance and Swadhaar FinServe, together reach more than 700,000 clients. Swadhaar’s micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) business will help India’s ‘missing middle’ obtain financing. Accion is also working with various partners in many of India’s poorest states – including Odisha, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh – to develop local financial literacy. In Odisha, Accion is teaching 70 trainers in its MoneyPlan program, who in turn will help 100,000 women understand savings, debt, insurance, investments, financial planning, and more.
In just over a year, our partnership with Myanmar’s DAWN has helped the MFI nearly double its client base in a country where nearly 90 percent of the population is financially excluded.
We continue to develop our presence in China through our local partner, Grassland Finance Ltd. Over the last year, Grassland has expanded operations to new branches in Chongqing and Inner Mongolia and opened new locations in Jishou in Hunan Province and in Jinan in Shandong Province. Accion is also working, with the support of the MetLife Foundation and in coordination with a local partner, to help Chinese MFI management and board members improve operations and reach more clients through the International Microfinance Management and Leadership Program, which will develop management and leadership capacity in China’s microfinance industry. The program will affect more than a million MFI clients.
Our work throughout Latin America continues with a recent focus on promoting savings. Only 14 percent of Latin American adults formally save; Accion is developing marketing campaigns to promote the adoption and usage of savings to help more un- and underserved clients enter the financial system and prepare for the future; savings will also help local MFIs fund their own operations.
Accion is also training Latin American MFIs to design products that prioritize their clients, helping our partners use client-centered design principles to develop services that promote sustained usage. Our work throughout the region also prioritizes and promotes sound management through board seats and seconded management at MFI partners Credinka and CrediConfía.
Africa continues to be a priority for our inclusive finance work. Accion’s investment in Kampala-based UGAFODE, a regulated, deposit-taking MFI, will help Ugandans access financial services through a mobile money program; UGAFODE’s focus on rural markets can make a significant impact in a country where most of the financially excluded population lives in rural areas.
In Nigeria, Accion Microfinance Bank is working to grow into a national bank; it intends to open 16 branches and 18 cash centers across five states. Accion Microfinance Bank is also working to deploy an agency banking network.
Finally, Accion’s Channels & Technology team helps extend our partners’ growth and redesign their operations to adopt mobile and agency banking, merchant services, core banking systems, and field automation tools. This year, the team helped MFI and fintech partners in Tanzania, Nigeria, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and India develop and operationalize their branchless banking strategies to enhance customer service, improve engagement, and ultimately reach more clients.
Accion reached an important milestone this year with the creation of the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, managed by Quona Capital. The first global fintech fund for the financially underserved will attract additional interest in and resources for inclusive finance and will allow private investors to support financial technology and services directly for the world’s two billion financially excluded. In addition to Accion – which serves as the fund’s lead sponsor and anchor investor – current investors include well-known investment banks, global insurance companies, a U.S. pension fund, university endowments, and a Fortune 100 payments company, as well as high-net-worth family offices from the United States and Europe.
Quona Capital is an early growth-stage venture firm focused on financial technology for underserved consumers and businesses in emerging markets. Quona, which includes alumni from Accion’s Frontier Investments Group, also manages the portfolio of early-stage fintech investments made by Frontier that continue to be held by Accion. The Quona partners have deep experience as investors and entrepreneurs in financial services and technology, and they have lived, worked, and built companies in both the emerging markets they serve and the developed economies they seek to connect. Quona leverages Accion’s global brand, technical specialists, and institutional relationships to promote and advance the fund. Both Quona and Accion have provided new capital and insights to several of the fund’s portfolio companies, including:
BankFacil, a digital platform innovator that helps Brazilians receive more affordable, secured home and auto loans by working with banks to improve productivity and cut costs through an online platform.
IndiaMART, an online B2B listings and transactions company for SMEs which also operates Tolexo, an e-commerce platform that provides SMEs with transaction and payments services to purchase business goods and supplies.
Konfio, an online lending platform that uses innovative credit algorithms and alternative data analysis to help micro-businesses in Mexico with no access to credit obtain affordable working-capital loans.
NeoGrowth, a Mumbai-based small-business accelerator that provides advance loans and related financial services to small- and medium-sized Indian merchants who accept electronic payments.
Accion’s seed-stage impact investing vehicle, Venture Lab, supports 24 disruptive fintech startups that are helping the financially underserved send their children to school, launch and expand businesses, build credit, and pay for healthcare. Venture Lab aspires to catalyze the development of innovative business models that can spur higher-quality financial products and services for the financially excluded.
Venture Lab has pursued innovations around the use of alternative data for credit-scoring for thin-file customers, and financing of MSMEs. The Venture Lab team will continue to share their insights with the broader industry and continue providing portfolio engagement and strategic guidance to its portfolio companies. Some of Venture Lab’s most recent partnerships include:Aire Labs, a UK-based alternative credit-scoring company that helps thin-file customers access credit through a proprietary artificial intelligence process that uses applicant-provided data and an online interview to evaluate profession, education, and financial knowledge.
CreditMantri, an Indian financial advisory service that allows customers who are underbanked, credit-negative, or new to formal financial services to learn about their credit scores and how to improve their financial health.
SME Corner, the first online platform that allows India’s MSMEs to access a range of financing products from partner financial institution.
Tienda Pago, a Latin American MSME lender that helps mom-and-pop shops fund inventory purchases through partnerships with fast-moving consumer-goods suppliers.
The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) at Accion serves as a convener, community builder, and thought leader among stakeholders working toward financial inclusion – including banks, telecom firms, researchers, regulators, MFIs, and fintech startups. CFI seeks to strengthen the sector and works in particular to ensure that financial inclusion is achieved in a way that supports client well-being.
The Smart Campaign, a global movement to embed client-protection principles into the industry – and one of the Center’s signature initiatives – is nearing critical mass. To date, 64 financial institutions, including some of the world’s biggest and best-known MFIs, have been certified for adherence to the Campaign’s consumer protection standards. Collectively, those institutions serve more than 34 million low-income clients.
The Campaign’s newly updated Standards 2.0 address the broader financial inclusion sector, including microfinance, micro-insurance, and digital financial services, and help to streamline the certification process. Because clients’ experiences and opinions are critical in consumer protection efforts, the Campaign surveyed thousands of low-income microfinance clients in Benin, Georgia, Pakistan, and Peru. Through the Client Voices reports, clients speak candidly about their interactions with the institutions that provide their loans and keep their savings.
The Center’s FI2020 initiative tracks industry progress toward full financial inclusion. Its By the Numbers brief reports that the world may achieve full financial access by 2020, but shows that much work remains to close the gaps between access, active use, and quality. Financial Inclusion Week prompted discussions about quality and outreach around the world; 34 organizations and 700 stakeholders held conversations leading to more than 150 calls to action.
The Center’s team worked closely with The Economist Intelligence Unit on the Global Microscope 2015, which surveyed, assessed, and ranked 55 countries on their financial inclusion regulatory environments, sending strong messages to policy makers. CFI also sponsored a review of the Basel Committee’s guidance on financial inclusion.
CFI released extensive new research on financial capability. Funded by JPMorgan Chase, the study examines innovative, behaviorally informed services that show far more promise in enabling low-income clients to use financial tools than do traditional financial education methods.
The Center investigates some of the most pressing questions facing the industry and will release the four projects commissioned under the new CFI Research Fellows Program in late 2016. The Fellows are examining big data, technology access, enterprise growth, and G2P payments.
The Africa Board Fellowship, which provides leadership development and guidance on best practices in governance for directors of sub-Saharan financial institutions, is building a reputation as a must-do for board members and CEOs of such institutions. Some 60 directors and CEOs representing 30 MFIs have completed the program; graduates return to work to help additional board members, staff, and the 1.9 million customers who do business with these institutions. Participants are also admitted to the Harvard Business School-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance, now in its 11th year.
The Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC) convenes equity investors in MFIs and other impact investments. FIEC’s new database benchmarks valuation data, and an accompanying paper provides updates on the valuation process.
Finally, the Center serves as the secretariat of the Microfinance CEO Working Group (MCWG), a group of 10 organizations working together to support positive industry development. The MCWG’s Model Legal Framework, a tool for MFIs to evaluate or upgrade their financial consumer protection regulations, has been enthusiastically received by regulators around the world.
Since 1991, Accion has provided more than 57,000 business loans in the U.S. totaling nearly $500 million. In 2015 alone, Accion provided 3,467 loans totaling nearly $37 million. Our investment in U.S. entrepreneurs through loans, business coaching, and a community of support has contributed to the creation or sustainment of more than 22,000 jobs since 1991 – more than 8,500 in 2015 alone.
In the United States today, lending is characterized by the declining availability of traditional finance and a proliferation of innovative but often unregulated financial products. Fintech has extraordinary potential, but in too many instances its poorly disclosed fees and features negatively affect business owners’ financial health.
In 2015, Accion responded to these challenges by co-founding the Responsible Business Lending Coalition, which developed the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights. The Coalition is working to ensure that fintech innovations are transparent and fair, and put the borrowers’ best interests first.
Accion embraces responsible, innovative approaches. With the support of the Sam’s Club Giving Program, the MetLife Foundation, and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Accion is providing more convenient, flexible, and accessible loans. In 2014, Accion launched a new online lending platform; since 2015, we have been making continuous data-driven improvements to our lending operations and products to improve our services’ value, automation, and scale. Additionally, Sam’s Club and MetLife support Accion’s online financial education and training resources that help more than 9,000 entrepreneurs every month understand their financing options, improve their financial health, and grow thriving businesses.
Entrepreneurs need tools, guidance, and mentoring to succeed. Through partnerships, Accion offers personalized training and resources that bolster U.S. businesses’ growth and sustainability.
Entrepreneurs starting food and beverage businesses are often turned down by traditional lenders because of a lack of credit, small loan requests, or the volatile nature of the industry. The Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Program, in partnership with Accion, supports entrepreneurs working to launch food and beverage businesses; the program provides Accion’s food and beverage clients with expert business coaching and access to capital. In 2015, the program provided 392 loans to small-business owners, totaling $4.7 million, creating or retaining 1,572 jobs. Additionally, more than 600 entrepreneurs participated in the program’s speed-coaching events, workshops, webinars, and Pitch Room competitions.
Accion and The Hartford support businesses that have positive impacts on their communities through the Communities with HART program, which offers financial education events, educational resources, and capital to help neighborhood businesses thrive. The program provided loans to 49 Accion borrowers in 2015, totaling $528,629, contributing to the creation or sustainment of 138 jobs.
Accion Fast Track, a business accelerator program supported by Capital One and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, provides Accion clients with intensive business training and mentoring. In 2015, 27 outstanding Accion businesses participated in the Fast Track program. Participants experienced a nearly 200 percent revenue growth on average and have hired 67 full-time employees since the program began.
Your support provides the funding that allows us to reach people in unserved and underserved regions around the globe.
Your contributions fund the research and development of product and process innovations that help bring needed financial tools to millions of hardworking individuals.
Your charitable gifts provide financial education and business training to clients so they can improve their businesses and lives.
Ultimately, your support means that millions of people around the world can be empowered to improve the lives of their family members, employees, and neighbors in critical ways – with better nutrition, regular schooling, or simply a roof that doesn’t leak.
For all this, we thank you, and we ask you to continue to help us to build a financially inclusive world with access to economic opportunity for all.
Your contributions fund the research and development of product and process innovations that help bring needed financial tools to millions of hardworking individuals.
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