This year, the first year of our current three-year strategic plan, was a year of innovation for WWB. Central to this strategy is a cycle of market research, piloting new products and then learning from the pilots to scale these products to new markets.Throughout this report, we will provide examples of work in each of these phases.
The innovations being led by Women’s World Banking are enabling financial institutions to reevaluate the way they distribute financial products, how they assess risk and the ways in which they can provide meaningful financial education to their clients. For example, WWB has worked closely with four network members to help them adapt the most fundamental aspects of their institutions’ processes, systems and culture in order to offer savings products [see page 22]. This year we also created innovative methods for product delivery using technologies such as mobile banking and the integration of financial education [see page 20].Innovation requires strong leadership and a clear vision.
Through the Center for Microfinance Leadership we trained more than 300 leaders in the challenges of balancing excellent financial performance with a sustained focus on their social mission. The Center staff’s in-field engagements also convincingly demonstrated that diversity of leadership is imperative for institutional success and sustainability. Findings from our diversity work can be found on page 33.
In the year of “Occupy Wall Street” and amidst growing distrust of mainstream financial institutions, the WWB network of microfinance institutions and banks is proud to have strengthened its commitment to improving the lives of low-income women. Without a fundamental understanding of our clients and a commitment to tailoring our products and services to meet their needs, we are not fulfilling the promise of microfinance. At the same time, financial institutions must be able to offer these products on a sustainable basis if they are to continue after the pilot phase is completed.
Access to credit can be a critical factor in the life of low-income families everywhere, but we believe that providing women and their households a greater measure of financial security through savings, insurance and pension products is the critical next step that financial institutions serving these clients must take. WWB stands ready to build on the successes of the past year by serving as a partner in ensuring financial stability to millions more.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian
President and CEO, Women’s World Banking