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[Covid-19] The response from the microfinance sector

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, MFC & EMN have started compiling all relevant initiatives taken across Europe and Central Asia to mitigate the impact on the microfinance sector. We will be updating this page as new initiatives surface, don't hesitate to check it regularly!

If you wish to contribute to this list, please contact Kinga Dąbrowska (kdabrowska@mfc.org.pl) and Adriana Olmedo (a.olmedo@european-microfinance.org).

SUMMARY

Misc. resources
Protecting people
     → Human Resources tips from microStart
     → Setting up a Crisis Team, example from Opportunity Bank Serbia
     → What to do when teleworking is not possible, ideas from UTCAR and Opportunity Bank Serbia
Protecting businesses
     → Adie
     → microStart
     → Microfinance Ireland
     → Qredits
     → PerMicro
     → Opportunity Bank Serbia
     → microlux
→ Actions and opportunities from institutions and the private sector

mfcemnbulletMisc. resources

Podcasts

  • Social Finance Podcast - Episode 1 - "Interview with Greg Solomon, actuary and specialist in reinsurance, risk management and capital management on COVID-19, insurance, and financial inclusion" - International Labour Organization

Webinar recordings

  • 22 May 2020 - "Liquidity Risk Management in the time of a Pandemic" - SPTF Webinar - watch the recording
  • "How to Build a Corporate Immune System in Response to COVID-19", a webinar series by the Microfinance Center
  • 26 March 2020 - "How to cope with the pandemic effects on MFI’s businesses"– 1st Webinar, good practices by Adie, OBS and microStart - watch the recording

Online compilations

  • e-MFP has set up a blog and forum with original content and discussion, specifically focused on the financial inclusion sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Read more ++
  • The Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) has compiled a series of tools and other resources to help the financial inclusion sector weather the pandemic. The latest addition is a Client Interview Tool, a set of simple, standardized questions for financial service providers to use when interviewing their clients during the pandemic.
    Read more ++
  • FinDev Gateway, the knowledge platform for the global financial inclusion community, has also created a resource hub that provides a collective space to share experiences, ideas and lessons learned to manage the crisis.
    Read more ++

Must-reads

mfcemnbulletProtecting people

Human Resources tips from microStart
Read more ++

Setting up a Crisis Team, example from Opportunity Bank Serbia
Read more ++

What to do when teleworking is not possible, ideas from UTCAR and Opportunity Bank Serbia

  • Set up a two-week rotation of half of the front office staff. During this time, the relocated front office staff may perform other back-office activities.
  • Limit the maximum number of clients in each branch.
  • Ensure safe distance between people, inside and outside.
  • Wear masks and gloves, especially while handling money.
  • Provide masks, gloves, and antibacterial soap to the staff.

mfcemnbulletProtecting businesses

Adie

Remote loan appraisals, adapted loans procedures to allow remote underwriting and disbursement
Adie set up new procedures to facilitate loan disbursements and adapt to difficult situations (e.g client at home with no printer, etc.). They also enabled the digital underwriting of contracts to provide new solutions to clients and loan officers.

Email and phone calls campaigns
Adie sent a mailing to all of their 60,000 active clients following France's decision to go on lockdown. The mailing provided details about the support measures taken by the French government to mitigate the impact on SMEs and self-employed people, providing information and advice on how to access this support. It also invited them to contact their loan officer or to call Adie's national telephone platform. An SMS was sent the following day to invite all active clients to Adie's webinars on the subject. Adie also started a massive phoning campaign conducted by loan officers and volunteers to establish a diagnosis of their clients’ situation and how the COVID-19 crisis might affect them and their business.

Suspension of instalments
Instalments of April, May and June can be suspended, clients benefiting from this measure will resume the reimbursement of their loan from July onwards.

Emergency Loan
Adie launched a new product called the Emergency Loan. The main features are a 3-month grace period, reduced pricing, and no guarantor required. A budget of €1 million was earmarked for this Emergency Loan.

microStart

Online coaching and e-learning alternatives to trainings
Coaching services have been made available online via visio-conference tools. microStart redirected their clients towards e-learning ressources to maintain their training offer.

Email and phone calls campaigns
microStart have contacted all their clients and prospects to inform them about the measures in place to support them. They also provided information on the latest developments at national level through social networks. All advisors and Branch Managers were updated on the latest government measures so as to be able to share them with clients and volunteers. microStart's staff has daily calls with their clients, with priority to the most impacted sectors (catering, taxi, services, etc.). Another objective was to consolidate data in a risk follow-up document indicating the number of clients called, and the type of difficulties they are faced with (cashflow, etc.).

Remote loan appraisals
The initial steps of the loan process were made available online through video meetings. Following this initial video appraisal, best scoring projects can be presented directly to the Credit Committee, while others will have to wait until a face-to-face meeting is possible.

Suspension of instalments and restructuration
microStart resorted to grace periods for new credits (whether new clients or renewals), by which one payment could be postponed if needed. Credit restructuration is also an option if no other solution have been found.

mS Express
microStart have launched a new product called mS Express, consisting in a €2,000 loan over a 24-month period together with a €1,000 no interest loan. These loans do not have to be approved by a Credit Committee, they can be directly approved by Branch Managers or the Operational Director.

Microfinance Ireland

New COVID-19 Business Loan
Microfinance Ireland launched a new product. It comprises of loans within the €5,000 – €50,000 bracket aiming at supporting businesses who have been impacted negatively by coronovirus in Ireland. Its main features are loan terms typically up to 3 years, no interest or repayment for the first 6 months, no fees and no hidden costs/charges, and fixed repayments with no penalty for early repayment.
Read more ++

Rescheduling of repayments and additional funding
A 2-step response was put in place. The 1st step comprises of a 6-month interest and capital repayment moratorium, followed by capital and interest repayments over the remaining term extended by the 6 months (this cannot exceed 66 months in total as the EaSI II Guarantee runs for 6 years_ or 72 months_ maximum. Microfinance Ireland is proactively contacting customers to offer them a restructure. In case this is not sufficient, the 2nd step is that customers can seek a new COVID-19 loan in addition to the rescheduling of their existing loan (with an overall maximum of existing and new funds of €50,000).

Qredits

Bridge Loan and reimbursement plan
Qredits offers a grace period of 6 months and has lowered the interest rates to 2% for existing loans. In addition, it offers a bridge loan of €12,500 for 12 months.

Helpdesks 
Two Helpdesks were set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, one for the loans and another one offering the services of a Crisis Coach

PerMicro

Publish government decrees on social media
PerMicro is publishing the various governmental decrees related to the Covid-19 on their social media channels. They translate those decrees in the main languages spoken by their clients.

Opportunity Bank Serbia

Crisis Team
OBS has put together a Crisis Team that meets daily and produces daily reports on measures and actions, as well as any new developments. The Crisis Team is coordinating all measures as well as internal and external reporting and communication.

Microlux

Individual phone calls with clients
Microlux have started contacting all their clients to assess their individual situations and provide adequate support.

Suspension of instalments
Microlux offers the possibility to postpone repayment for the April, May, and June instalments.

Volunteer support
Microlux clients can request the help of a volunteer to guide them through the various mitigating measures put in place by the government in Luxembourg.

mfcemnbulletActions and opportunities from institutions and the private sector

European Institutions

European Investment Fund and European Commission
In July 2020, EIF and the European Commission launched new Covid-19 measures supporting micro- and social enterprises under the €400m EaSI Guarantee instrument, to further incentivise financial intermediaries to lend money to small businesses.
Read more ++

European Commission
The Commission has set up a new instrument, called SURE, that will provide up to €100 billion in loans to countries that need it to ensure that workers receive an income and businesses keep their staff. This allows people to continue to pay their rent, bills and food shopping and helps provide much needed stability to the economy.
Read more ++

The EC has also been collecting Social Economy initiatives and actions that help in the fight against corona, such as technology solutions, services for elderly, volunteering requests, food delivery services, on-line courses, etc.
Read more ++

EIB Group
The EIB Group has proposed a plan to mobilise up to €40 billion of financing. This will go towards bridging loans credit holidays and other measures designed to alleviate liquidity and working capital constraints for SMEs and mid-caps.
Read more ++

European Council
The Council created the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, that will give Member States access to €37 billion of cohesion money to strengthen healthcare systems, as well as support small and medium-sized enterprises, short-term working schemes, and community-based services.

It also extended the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include public health emergencies in addition to natural disasters. This will help Member States and accession countries meet people's immediate needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more ++

National Governments

Italian Government
Italy has taken a series of measures to mitigate the impact on the microcredit sector, such as a moratorium on loan repayment, a guarantee of up to 80% of the loan amount, etc. The maximum amount for business microcredit has also been raised from €25,000 to €40,000.
Read more ++

National Bank of Serbia
The National Bank of Serbia has introduced a 3-month moratorium on loan repayment for all clients of all banks (except for the ones who decline the offer).
Read more ++

Azeri Government
The Azeri authorities have developed special rules for the activity of credit institutions, based on the minimum recommendations of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Read more ++

Government of Luxembourg
Luxembourg has taken a series of measures to help entreprises, such as the payment of an advance on extraordinary family leave or subsidies covering part-time unemployment due to the pandemic.
Read more ++

Other actors

Business & Finance Consulting (BFC)
BFC is offering a series of webinars, in English and in Russian – Past webinars recordings and all the necessary information are accessible in the Webcase Library. They also offer advice and expertise to support financial institutions and their clients during the crisis with a COVID-19 technical assistance response package. Lastly, BFC publishes regular updates on digital trends, best practice tips, and insights into how institutions are coping through their weekly FinTech Bulletin.

ACAPS
ACAPS has created a dashboard monitoring government measures related to COVID-19 around the world. ACAPS is a non-profit, non-governmental project providing independent information to the humanitarian sector.
Read more ++

PILnet
PILnet is compiling information for NGOs and social enterprises related to COVID-19 response and good governance. Their law firm network provides pro bono support to civil society organisations.
Read more ++

Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation
The Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation's team launched a survey among its partners to gather their first impressions and analysis on how the microfinance sector is being affected by the pandemic, the impact of the crisis on their clients' activity, on their institution and their potential needs.
Read more ++

Facebook
Facebook has set up a Small Business Grants Program, offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where they operate.
Read more ++

 

This activity is financed by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) 2014-2020. For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi