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Financial Inclusion at the bottom of the pyramid — then and now

Speech of CEO Samuel Bon at the Credit Suisse Financial Inclusion Advocates Switzerland luncheon in Zurich.

End of April, Credit Suisse’s “Financial Inclusion Advocates Switzerland” (FIA CH) invited Swisscontact to a luncheon in Zurich to kick-off a range of events celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative and the launch of the FIA CH, an internal volunteering network organising internal and external activities to raise awareness about microfinance and foster the exchange of expertise.

On this occasion, Samuel Bon had the pleasure to present Swisscontact’s work on financial inclusion to more than 200 Credit Suisse collaborators. Since over a decade, Swisscontact is a partner to Credit-Suisse in implementing microfinance projects. Swisscontact engages experts, creates innovative financial products and services, and shares knowledge through industry events and publications.

Microfinance pioneers 

Swisscontact was among the microfinance pioneers worldwide. It started strengthening local financial markets and solutions in the 1980ies in Latin America, strongly supported the development of Equity Bank in East Africa since its early days, and together with Credit Suisse developed an innovative microleasing product to better serve the needs of smallholder farmers without collateral or credit history in East Africa and Latin America. 

Developing products and services for those at the bottom of the pyramid 

In his presentation, Samuel Bon gave a short overview on the evolution of financial inclusion and most importantly the underlaying motivation by people such as Wilhelm Friedrich Raiffeisen, and Muhammad Yunus, in developing products and services for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Lessons learnt

Bon briefly exposed Swisscontact’s role in fostering the development of inclusive finance, sharing some of their experiences and success stories – without concealing challenges and limitations of microfinance.

Closing his speech, he emphasised on the importance of understanding the end-clients: the local farmers and entrepreneurs and their realities. “Human centred development is essential – it cannot be replaced by any technology”. Particularly now, that impact investing and social investing in developing countries is on the rise, it needs to be understood, how such investments can make a difference. 

Secondly, Bon expressed the challenge of finding the right balance between lax and over-regulation – since microfinance does need a certain amount of regulatory framework to avoid excessive indebtedness. 

Finally, he made a call to invest more in impact measurement: “Only if we measure well and communicate transparently, we can learn and understand how to improve the development of appropriate services to our clients at the bottom of the pyramid.”