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Accion invests in CÍVICO to accelerate access to innovative financial services in Latin America

Posted By Lisa Johnson, Accion, Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Bogotá, Colombia, April 3, 2019 — Global nonprofit Accion announced today an investment in Latin American digital platform CÍVICO. The funds will help CÍVICO invest in technology and analytics, expand its merchant network, and develop its suite of financial services.

CÍVICO is a digital platform that enables access to information and services to improve the quality of life of individuals in Latin America. The company provides micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Bogotá, Colombia; Mexico City, Mexico; and Santiago, Chile with a platform to connect with local customers as well as business information and payment services. CÍVICO also provides a strong value proposition to its merchants with electronic payments, e-commerce, business education in digital marketing techniques, coupons and loyalty programs, as well as better bookkeeping techniques. Today, CÍVICO has more than 600,000 registered merchants and helps serve more than 4 million consumers.

“We’re excited to bring on Accion as our newest partner. With its decades of experience supporting financial services innovation in Latin America and around the world, we know Accion’s investment and advisory support will be critical as we scale our services and reach in the region,” said Ricardo Pombo, CEO and Co-founder of CÍVICO.

"Latin American entrepreneurs often lack access to formal financial services and adequate business training. Through its simple, digital platform, CÍVICO is closing this gap and helping small businesses thrive," said Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion. “Accion is excited to bring our global expertise to CÍVICO’s experienced management team and help leverage its innovative technology platform to scale financial services in the region,” said Radhika Shroff, Deputy Chief Investment Officer of Accion Global Investments.

As part of its merchant customer acquisition strategy, CÍVICO uses an innovative crowdsourcing model to identify and confirm MSME information, including the business’ names, contact information, hours, and services. This information, along with merchants’ and users’ data, helps CÍVICO learn more about the MSMEs it serves, connect them with local customers, and develop deeper profiles that can be used to better understand community needs and ultimately provide entrepreneurs with tailored financial services. The company also partners with large financial service providers to help entrepreneurs access the electronic payment systems they need to accept credit and debit cards, allowing them to increase sales.

In addition to financial support, Accion is providing advisory services to enable CÍVICO to reach more clients throughout Colombia, Mexico, and Chile. The advisory services will support the company as it further develops its financial services distribution and enables more merchants to access quality digital services.

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About Accion

Accion is a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. We catalyze financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of — or poorly served by — the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through our work with more than 110 partners in 50 countries. More at http://www.accion.org>.

 

Link to associated blog: https://www.accion.org/how-one-platform-connects-cities-and-boosts-small-businesses/

Tags:  communities  digital economy  emerging markets  financial inclusion  impact investing  innovative finance 

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FINCA International and USAID PACE Launch FINCA Forward, a Fintech Innovation Platform

Posted By Michael Leen, FINCA International, Thursday, October 4, 2018

Global microfinance pioneer FINCA International, in partnership with USAID, announces the launch of FINCA Forward, a fintech innovation platform. This two-year pilot will facilitate collaboration between early-stage financial technology enterprises and microfinance institutions (MFIs) to help small and growing fintech businesses overcome the pioneer gap and to enable MFIs to better reach underserved and underbanked populations, especially women. Participating fintechs will run proof-of-concepts in close collaboration with MFIs in Africa and Latin America, which will include tailored pre-investment support and the opportunity to access investment capital. For more information, visit www.FINCA.org/finca-forward/.

FINCA-Forward-Fintech-Innovation-Platform

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Tags:  Financial Inclusion  Fintech  innovation  Microfinance  SGBs 

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SEAF Launches Gender Equality Scorecard ©

Posted By Robert Webster, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF), Monday, August 27, 2018

SEAF Launches Gender Equality Scorecard ©

 

Washington, D.C. (August 27, 2018)

 

SEAF, the emerging market impact investing firm, has announced the launch of its proprietary Gender Equality Scorecard (“GES”), which will be a vital tool to support the promotion and achievement of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in SEAF’s global investments.  The GES is initially being piloted in SEAF’s investments in Southeast Asia and it is expected to be used eventually across SEAF’s world-wide, impact investing platform.

                               

Jennifer Buckley, SEAF Senior Managing Director, stated, “SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard is launched with the conviction that those firms that realize internal gender equality in terms of compensation, leadership and other factors are superior financial performers and powerful drivers of women’s economic empowerment.  In this way, SEAF sees enormous potential in using the GES to create shared value for women, investors and entrepreneurs.”

 

SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard will assess potential and existing SEAF investees on gender equality, scoring across six key gender equality vectors:  pay equity, leadership and governance, workforce participation, benefits and professional development, workplace environment, and women-powered value chains.  These assessments will identify opportunities to improve gender equality and hence guide SEAF’s critical post-investment value creation work.

 

The Scorecard was born out of SEAF’s current gender lens investing initiative, the SEAF Women’s Opportunity Fund.  This Fund was launched in partnership with the Investing in Women (“IW”) initiative of the Australian government and focuses on women-led/owned businesses in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.  The Criterion Institute, the gender lens investing think tank and an IW partner, has played a critical role in GES’ development.

 

“SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard represents an exciting and innovative development to advance gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the impact investing space,” explained Joy Anderson, President and Founder, Criterion Institute. “We are delighted to partner with SEAF and look forward to the GES’ continued development and influence.”

 

Bob Webster, SEAF Managing Director, said, “The Gender Equality Scorecard is the next key step in our gender lens investing journey and we look forward to working with our partners, including future stakeholders such as asset managers and academic institutions, in assessing its validity and improving it over time.  After its pilot use in the SEAF Women’s Opportunity Fund, its use will be expanded to SEAF’s next generation of gender lens investing initiatives, which are currently under development.”

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Tags:  creating shared value  emerging market  financial inclusion  gender equality  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive business  innovation  womenCreating Shared Value  women's economic empowerment 

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Three Powerful Tools for Fintech Practitioners

Posted By Jane Del Ser, Bankable Frontier Associates, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By David del Ser

(Watch our video)

Since we launched the Catalyst Fund in 2015, we have helped 15 fintech entrepreneurs deploy novel approaches to bring products and services to their customers. We have distilled the successful patterns and behaviors we have observed into toolkits and posts for those considering fintech methods for their businesses, whether they be startups or established players.


At a high level, successful fintech startups adopt principles of Design, Risk Management and Product Management, and also put modern technologies like smartphones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing at the core of their value propositions. At successful fintech startups Designers, Product Managers, CEOs and Engineers reinforce each other in multidisciplinary teams to explore the overlap between what customers find desirable, what engineers can build, and what the business requires to grow.

Design

The function of Design is to represent the voice of the customer at all times to make sure a company stays centered on what matters most. Design is not a one-off process. In the spirit of customer validation, designers keep tight feedback loops with customers throughout the product development process, from early prototypes to usability testing of new features.


Through user research (UX) techniques like online surveys and one-one-one interviews, designers invest heavily during initial stages in order to know their customers like the back of their hand; what are their problems and pain points, and how can their company help? In fact, designers segment customers into personas to allow the team to constantly keep in mind different user profiles and needs.


Aesthetics matter. Designers work hard to perfect a product’s UI and its look and feel, so it can live up to the high expectations created by WhatsApp or Google. But great design goes beyond just user research and visuals during early product design stages. Successful inclusive fintech startups map out the Customer Journey and Service Blueprint in detail to fully understand the perspective of the user each time they  interact with the company.


Ultimately, great design creates trust, that elusive quality that all startups are chasing and that distinguishes them from their competitors. We’ve captured our lessons for startups to build trust with their customers through their products or services in our Design for Trust Toolkit.


Product Management

But designers can’t work in isolation; they need someone to lead the orchestra - and that’s where a product manager comes in. The PM takes a big picture view and works to ensure that designers, engineers and marketers all work towards the same goal. Crucially, she makes sure the product or service goal is backed by data and evidence. She keeps the whole process nimble through quick agile iterations focused on the activities of users, from initial onboarding to the retention phase. For example, using A/B Testing and usage analytics she captures details of how each users is interacting with every screen to inform engagement.


The effective product manager is very focused on the key metrics for the business, such as customer lifetime value or acquisition costs. She also works hard to explore the best channels to find new customers, including viral referrals and social media. As an example, our portfolio company Destacame has seen lead acquisition costs dropping to less than $3 through these types of digital channels. We explore some of the different tools and frameworks to help startups focus as they chart their journey from idea, to minimum viable product (MVP) and growth in our upcoming product/market fit toolkit.

Modern Technologies

And finally, you can’t have good fintech without the “tech” that is enabling these new approaches.


Most important are the smartphones, which run fintech apps and also act as channels to find and interact with users. For instance, several of our startups use WhatsApp to offer customer support and drive virality, communicating with users in the way they prefer. Smartphones can also be used to generate and capture user data, which is particularly valuable when targeting low-income consumers who traditionally have been anonymous. In that vein, our portfolio company Smile Identity validates and authenticates customer identities using selfies taken on their phones.


In addition machine learning and other artificial intelligence systems can improve customer value propositions and to automate internal processes like credit scoring using data from smartphones and other new sources like satellites. As an example, our portfolio company ToGarantido is exploring chatbots for sales of their insurance policies and customer support. Harvesting is using satellite data to understand credit and insurance risk with just a GPS read. Worldcover doesn’t even need customers to file a claim as their satellite systems award them automatically.


And software engineering helped Escala and Paygo Energy to automate most of their back-office processes to be responsive to their customers. It is easier and more affordable than ever for startups to leverage affordable SaaS solutions to architect their systems. Likewise, cloud computing is also a powerful technology that offers simplicity, lower costs and flexibility. There is no need to commit capital to purchase hardware and the team requires less engineering talent to keep the servers going.

Conclusion

In our experience, companies that harness the powerful combination of design, product management and modern technologies create better and more tailored value propositions. That makes for happier customers, which is what makes businesses thrive. By driving more usage, the fintech triad can create more impact in low-income populations. And digital channels and automated processes can significantly lower costs of serving customers, allowing for expansion to new markets and reducing exclusion.


Learn more by joining us for our webinar on the Catalyst Fund toolkits during the ANDE Sector Update call in January. Register here.


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Introducing FINANCE CONNECT: Connecting SMEs with the best financing opportunity

Posted By FAST International, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finance Connect is a unique service that focuses on addressing the needs of larger sustainable agricultural and forestry SMEs in developing countries that have financing needs of more than USD 800,000. These are usually enterprises that have larger projects, or projects that require both short and long-term finance. It is a tailor-made service that supports the enterprises throughout the process of obtaining finance, including linking SMEs to financial services providers (FSPs) that can meet their needs in an accurate, efficient, and effective manner. Ultimately, this service will enable FAST and its partners to create a tangible benefit on the ground by helping SMEs restructure their finances, reach their potential growth, employ more people, and have a more sustainable business model that will benefit them and their communities in the long term.

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Tags:  Access to Finance  financial inclusion  larger SMEs 

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