Juber Ahmed , pp. 148. MAM/Sektionen för Management, 2010.
Title: Client Information Needs of MFIs: A Case Study of ASA Bangladesh
Author: Juber Ahmed
Academic Advisor: Dr. Klaus Solberg Søilen
Department: School of Management, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Course: Master Thesis in Business Administration
Purpose: To enrich the knowledge base of client’s needs of financial services and assessing the tools MFIs used to collect clients’ information and how they utilized the information for developing new products and services or modifying existing products and services or their terms and conditions to meet the needs of financial services of their clientele. Also how MFIs organized and managed the information and how they categorized their clients using that information.
Method: The investigation conducted from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view. The deductive approach used for the study and the case study method deployed. I studied ASA which is an MFI renowned in Bangladesh and beyond. At first, I had gone through a secondary research for collecting a number of successful methods and standard types of information used by successful MFIs from existing literature. In primary research, I interviewed 10 Managers (Assistant Directors) for ASA to determine which of the methods found in the literature were more effective for collecting clients’ information for them and also asked them to add their ideas to the list. At last I asked interviewees to rate the methods and results presented in this paper.
Theory: This study was an exploratory one where I discussed the related aspects for the study - Microfinance, Client Assessment, Clients of Microfinance, Information needs and Management Information System.
Findings: The study showed that ASA utilized client information for developing their credit products and services and based on number of loans taken by the clients they categorized their clients and modified or developed new products and services for each category of clients. Although ASA executed several tools for collecting client information but the managers think that their staffs’ collection of information from regular meeting with clients was more effective than others for modifying products’ terms and conditions and modifying or developing new products and services to their women and small enterprise clients. The conducted study also revealed that in ASA impact study was necessary to know clients’ overall level of satisfaction but management needed specific information on what aspects of ASA and its credit products and services clients preferred and did not prefer and the reasons of the preferences. Also they needed action plan to address clients’ specific concerns, so they needed the information on a continual basis and they were successful to achieve this continuous flow of information. For ASA, the best way to get this type of information would be through client satisfaction Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), although they utilized several tools but not often as discussed in part 3 in chapter 5. ASA owned an MIS (AMMS) for monitoring and managing clients’ information and they utilized this to categorize their clients based on the collected information about their number of loans.
Conclusion: This study revealed that ASA served only women and small enterprise clientele that included the vulnerable non-poor and could contribute to the profitability of ASA. There was no attempt to diversify the products to include all poor that should be the goal of microfinance to alleviate poverty. Moreover client treated as individual client but the loans used to fulfill household or family needs of the clients. There were tools for collecting information on household about impact of credit programs participation but they took seldom effort for collecting information of the household money management or in other words how they utilized the loans for variety of household needs.
There is lack of access to a variety of financial services for poor clients, even though MFIs are mostly serving vulnerable non-poor instead of taking consideration of all categories of poor.
It revealed from the study that MFIs could gain long term success by serving specific market segment but it should not be only focus of MFIs, their initiative should be to include all poor in their clients profile with a priority to a specific market segment. This could help them to become sustainable and to minimize risks by spreading it in different market segments.
The study found that ASA considered FGDs as an effective tool for collecting clients’ information as their staffs and managers were familiar with this tool, moreover it was cost effective for them. It observed that they seldom followed Tool Selection Process and it was the top management that decided over the tools, the decision might influence by internal and external interest groups and the competition.
MFIs should organize client information in a way so that they could be able to manipulate the specific client information to serve client better and to take effective decision, although it is imperative to argue that they may like to serve the wealthier clients.
This research paper is also presenting some important findings from existing literature of microfinance and a number of recommendations based on the study experience and scholars opinions from existing microfinance study that may help MFIs to prepare themselves to adopt client-oriented approach by utilizing client assessment tools to fulfill the needs of financial services of their clients that may hopefully include all poor irrespective of their categories.