By systematically monitoring and managing its social performance, Advans is making sure that its business activities are aligned with the institution’s vision and objectives. Learn more about how we stay true to our mission: providing financial services to small entrepreneurs in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Why is social performance important in microfinance?
All microfinance institutions (MFIs) have a social mission, generally focused on offering financial services to underserved populations. This social mission is important because our role is to ensure that we are empowering these underserved populations. It entails a huge responsibility because a large part of those clients don’t know much about financial services. Therefore, at Advans, we consider that we must make sure we do the right thing for our customers at any point of their journey with us: offering services tailored to their needs, communicating transparently, treating them with respect and also by enabling them to give feedback. Social Performance Management (SPM) is all about making sure that our social mission becomes a reality so that we have the outcomes and impact we aim for.
To do this, each MFI has to make sure that all staff understand the social mission at the heart of their operations and that policies and procedures are in line with it, that way it can be implemented on a day to day basis.
How does Advans manage Social Performance?
From the start of operations, all Advans subsidiaries implement group model policies and procedures with regards to how they serve clients. Advans has had a specific SPM policy since 2008, which includes basic principles on the positive impact we aim to have and an exclusion list detailing the kind of businesses we cannot finance so as not to harm the environment or society. More recently we have developed this policy by articulating our social mission as a group and breaking it down into five clear social goals. Our goals focus mainly on the impact we aim to have on clients but also on our staff and our surrounding communities. In order to follow up on our achievements in regards to our social goals we have put some basic indicators in place which we report on quarterly.
We have also tried to focus on additional SPM governance practices: for example, ensuring that we have a SPM representative in each subsidiary and a SPM champion on each board. SPM representatives in subsidiaries act as the internal and external contact for all SPM issues and are there to raise awareness; they are often in roles with direct links to client service, like in Côte d’Ivoire where our SPM representative supervises the client relationship team.
How does Advans ensure that its practices are in line with sector standards?
Our goal is to ensure that subsidiaries are aware of best practices in social performance and of how our standards compare to them. To do this we use sector tools such as the self-assessment on SMART client protection principles. Since 2017 we have also been working with Cerise on using the SPI4 social audit tool to asses our practices and to identify areas for improvement.
How is Advans improving its social performance management?
Up until now we have used the SPI4 tool in three subsidiaries with a fourth audit to come soon – we have performed audits in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and soon in Nigeria. Now that we have the data from these audits we are looking to work on group policies to close existing gaps and improve our policies and practices. Recently, it has led us to launch the “Voice of the Customer” project which focuses on complaints mechanisms, measuring satisfaction and improving client research. We want to improve how we listen to our clients at all stages of the customer journey and when developing products. As we set up global standards and processes at group level, we always look for good practices from our subsidiaries. Kicking off the “Voice of Customer” project, we gained a lot of interesting insights from our team in Ghana – they have been monitoring customer feedback through their call centre for a couple of years and this has resulted in an improvement of overall customer satisfaction.
What perspectives in social performance in the years to come?
Overall, we need to make a better connection between SPM and measuring the impact of our activities. In the sector, there is currently a strong emphasis on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role that microfinance has to play in achieving these goals. In terms of Advans activities, naturally we are focused on SDG 8 – economic growth and job creation – because we focus on businesses. Microfinance can also directly or indirectly have a positive impact on other goals such as helping to reduce inequalities between urban and rural areas, improving gender equality through targeting women or improving access to education through finance or partnership schemes, to name a few. Generally microfinance should be seen as an important driver for sustainable development as a whole, and it is interesting to align social performance objectives and indicators with the SDGs.
Katherine Brown has been in the Advans Group team for five years and focuses on Social Performance and Marketing. She is a qualified SPI4 Auditor.