A customer service assistant speaks to a BRAC microfinance client
Due to an increasing supply of microfinance products, there is an urgent need for increased attention to financial education and client protection. We piloted the financial education and client protection project in 2012, with an objective to enable our borrowers to make better decisions, such as evaluating financial institutions and properly using financial services.
Our financial education curriculum covers a range of important topics including: terms and conditions of products, rights and responsibilities of clients, dangers of over-indebtedness, the value of regular record keeping, benefits of saving and how to access BRAC’s grievance redress mechanism.
The lack of financial education is not just an individual issue. It affects entire households and communities. Our aim, therefore, is to raise awareness and build knowledge at many levels. BRAC’s approach to promoting financial education and client protection is not to stress an increase in knowledge, but also to help unaware people adopt financial behaviours that facilitate their wellbeing.
We use a variety of strategies to increase financial education:
• Pre-disbursement orientation of clients on basic financial awareness, rights and responsibilities of clients
• Reinforcement of key messages by frontline staff at regular group meetings
• Sharing information at other key gatherings, such as community action meetings and parents’ meetings at BRAC schools
To increase client protection, we have taken a number of steps. The clients’ rights and responsibilities are explicitly mentioned in the staff code of conduct. Managers are expected to be accessible to clients as issues arise, and we are strengthening other resources for clients by establishing call centres and a grievance redress mechanism.
PLANS FOR EXPANSION
To significantly enhance client experience, we are rolling out frontline customer service assistants to all branches. These women will provide customised information and support to all clients who come for services. They will also conduct sessions on financial education in nearby communities.
In addition, BRAC is working on pictorial materials and entertainment-filled education that will combine local stories, visual humour and role playing to draw and sustain the attention of the target audience which will be used in the training sessions for clients. Customer service assistants and staff can incorporate many of these tools into their training sessions and interactions with clients.