Measures to facilitate work in MFIs

Measures

In daily contact with MFIs, ADA has identified some measures to facilitate the work for the employees and clients of the MFIs.

For more than 25 years, ADA has been supporting MFIs in their development and professionalisation. At the end of March, we were able to publish a guidance note on business continuity, which has since been reinforced by a set of models for developing business continuity plans. Despite the confinement and travel restrictions, we are in daily contact with the MFIs, which have been able to adapt.
 

What measures and tools are available to MFIs to facilitate the work of their employees?

Among the main measures taken, the most common are:

  • barrier measures enacted by Governments (social distance of one meter, regular hand washing, use of hand sanitiser, permanent wearing of masks). These measures have led to a reorganisation of the staff into several shifts, which remain unchanged according to the shifts. This facilitates the management of the schedule and makes it possible to respect the distance measures;
  • the limitation of meetings with customers in the field, especially when dealing with groups. MFIs seek to make group offices responsible for collecting repayments and ask them to travel to the counter to make deposits;
  • attempts to reorganize work or use new ways of operating.

These measures have been facilitated by tools and facilities, which have made it possible to continue the work:

  • equipping telephones, financing communication credits, laptops with Internet connection, using e-wallet to avoid touching cash, sending SMS messages (reminders, reminders of health instructions, etc.) to customers;
  • protection in counters: installation of windows, floor markings for social distancing, refurbishment of offices;
  • regular cleaning and disinfection of the premises by specialised services.

In the same vein, many MFIs (especially those with a cooperative form), usually hold their general assembly in June during which the annual work plans and budget (AWB) are adopted. They are now considering approval of these AWBPs by the Board of Directors in order to continue activities on a legitimate basis.


How can the role of agents be maintained in a context of confinement and social distancing?
First of all, it is important to have a communication plan for all staff. Messages must be clear and consistent to avoid creating confusion and generating counterproductive behaviours (for example, to prevent clients from making massive savings withdrawals for fear that a particular branch will be closed). It is important to avoid having everyone in their (confined) corner doing what they think is right.

This communication plan should be part of a business continuity plan that MFIs often define in a participatory manner. They seek to provoke reflection among their staff r around a central question: what can and should I do from my place of confinement, taking into account the constraints of social distancing, to continue working towards the institution's objectives?

It is with this plan that the necessary means can then be defined so that the agents can assume their role:

  • provision of means of communication and internet connection (to allow better connections in a context of high demand);
  • limitation of field activities, or even cessation of field activities in the most affected areas;
  • programmed presence in the agencies (in strict compliance with the barrier measures) to allow continuity in the processing of files;
  • proposing teleworking for back office staff, where possible;
  • reallocation of field staff (Tontine collectors, etc.) to remote contact actions (telephone) with customers.


How to maintain communication and trust with customers?

A few steps can be taken:

  • Assigning a temporary agent to each cash desk or branch, who can ensure that barrier measures are respected (hand washing, freezing, wearing a mask, taking the temperature, etc.) but who above all ensures that the rules on social distances are respected and limits the number of clients present on the premises at the same time; this helps to raise awareness;
  • Establish a communication plan with clients and ask agents to keep in touch with them, if only to listen. A toll-free number is sometimes set up;
  • Raising awareness of barrier measures in agencies and cash desks by displaying health instructions, broadcasting video messages in a loop on screens or on the radio. Other messages around financial education and good behaviours to adopt during Covid-19 can also be disseminated. For example: "it is useless to come to the branch to empty your entire account Your caisse is always open and will remain at your service"; "there are possibilities offered by your institution to deal with Covid (rescheduling / restructuring or extension of deadlines in accordance with the directives, etc.)";
  • Identify clients' economic activities that are little or not affected by the crisis and continue disbursements, especially in rural areas. MFIs that are able to do so try to finance winter 2020 loans;
  • Investigate the possibility of creating an emergency credit product or a small business stimulus credit for customers, before resuming repayments after Covid. All this is subject to the availability of the institution's funding sources.

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