Together, we’re working to overcome global challenges
In 2018, Accion continued building a world with economic opportunity for all, where everyone can access, use, and benefit from the high-quality, affordable financial services they need to build better lives.
Accion works tirelessly to empower people, small businesses, and communities. We find, fund, and grow companies creating new ways to meet the financial needs of the underserved. We protect clients and make sure the industry does too. And we work with dedicated partners who believe in the importance of creating a financially inclusive world.
A letter from our CEO and Board Chair
Thank you. Your belief in financial inclusion and your support for Accion sustain our work to create a more inclusive world. Three billion people are left out of, or poorly served, by the global financial system. They have little to no access to the basic financial tools that could help them manage their daily lives, deal with emergencies, or seize opportunities. Their lives are so much harder than they need to be. We can and we must change this.
That’s our vision. Our work helps people access, use, and benefit from these basic financial services. For the first time in history, new digital technologies may allow us to reach those who have been left out. We can provide them with the tools they need to help themselves. By harnessing these technologies, and with your continued support, we will create a financially inclusive world.
By advising, investing, and influencing, Accion has helped families and small businesses around the world realize their economic potential – and it’s your support that makes our work possible. In 2018, we:
- Significantly increased our support for innovation. Through Accion Venture Lab and the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, managed by Quona Capital, we made impact investments in new financial technologies that allow us to offer better, faster, and more affordable services to the underserved. In the next few years, we will grow these efforts considerably.
- Launched a global program with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to help small businesses successfully operate in and benefit from the digital economy by leveraging digital transformation. We aim to reach up to 10 million clients, including four million merchants, leading to greater financial inclusion, economic growth, and job creation.
- Began a new partnership with MetLife Foundation to advance financial inclusion for underserved individuals around the world. The project aims to enhance financial customer engagement by building their financial capabilities.
- Celebrated the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion’s first decade of serving, protecting, and empowering clients, and began to plan how it will continue doing this important work for many years to come.
There’s so much work still to be done. The World Bank released new data showing that we’ve made important progress expanding access to formal financial services. But, at the same time, savings has declined, the use of formal credit is flat, and resiliency failed to improve in developing countries since 2014.
That’s why this work is so meaningful and urgent – and why your support means so much to so many. Thank you for helping us create a financially inclusive world.
Accion has helped tens of millions of people through our work with more than 110 partners in 50 countries
30 million people touched by Accion’s work through our partners around the world
The Smart Campaign certified over 100 financial institutions serving more than 43 million low-income clients in 39 countries as of December 2018
“When you improve your business, it will improve every other aspect of your life”
Accion Microfinance Bank (Accion MfB)’s support helped Dr. David Akinpelu purchase an X-Ray machine and make other improvements to his hospital that allowed him to provide better care to more patients.
In 2018, Accion MfB helped more than 250,000 savers and 45,000 borrowers like Dr. Akinpelu. Accion began helping the bank digitize and create new distribution channels, automated business processes, and an agent banking network to help more clients across Nigeria.
By helping Accion MfB integrate new technologies, more entrepreneurs like Dr. Akinpelu grew their businesses and shared their success.
“I hope that my business grows more every day”
Margarita Viviescas begins preparing floral arrangements for weddings, first communions, birthdays, and photo shoots as early as 3 o’clock in the morning.
Like many small business owners, Margarita wanted to better organize her work to ultimately find more clients and grow her income. So, at night, she began logging on to Ovante, a new platform Accion launched in 2018 with the support of FedEx that helped more than 5,000 small business owners better understand cash management, budgeting, and financial planning and adopt behaviors based on this new understanding.
By digitizing Accion’s award-winning client education program, Ovante’s engaging, interactive lessons helped entrepreneurs like Margarita develop the core business skills they need to flourish – no matter where they lived or when they worked.
“It was great to see the interest and support from the very start”
Vina was always an avid reader, but it wasn’t until she became a supervisor at a now-closed bookseller that she realized her passion for the work. “Nothing brought me more joy than putting a book into a customer’s hands and then having that customer come back and share how much they loved [it].”
After seeing all but one of the bookstores in her borough close, Vina began working with two former coworkers, Holly and Natalie, to open a bookstore of their own. The three women began taking the first steps toward opening Kew and Willow Books.
The key to any successful small business is to start with the community, and that’s just where Kew and Willow Books began. “It was great to see the interest and support from the very start,” Vina said. A crowdfunding campaign helped Vina and her partners secure a location and begin renovations, but they needed more capital to open. Too new to qualify for a loan from a commercial bank, they turned to Accion in the U.S. Its support provided Kew and Willow Books with the financing it needed to purchase its initial inventory and make other essential purchases. “The loan process was very thorough and helped us organize aspects of our business we hadn’t previously thought of. We feel very lucky,” Vina said. Without help from Accion in the U.S., Vina and her partners never would have opened their doors.
Vina now works at the bookstore full-time and finds inventive ways to keep the community at the heart of the store. Kew and Willow Books hosts open-mic nights, children’s events, and even showcases local talent. Vina, Holly, and Natalie celebrated their one-year anniversary in October 2018. In the next five years, they hope to build on their success and open a second location in Jackson Heights.
In 2018, Accion continued giving people and businesses the financial tools they need to improve their lives:
- Advise: Our teams provided targeted, strategic guidance and technical assistance for financial service providers and fintechs, as well as world-class oversight through board governance.
- Invest: Our support helped companies create new ways to meet the financial needs of the underserved.
- Influence: Our research and insights pushed the industry to better serve, protect, and empower clients.
By combining these elements, Accion helped underserved families and businesses — as well as the inclusive financial service providers that work with them — thrive. Accion’s Global Advisory Solutions team helped its partners use new technologies to increase the quality and lower the costs of providing financial services at scale, ensuring that more people could benefit from the formal financial sector. Accion Global Investments’ support developed inclusive, well-managed, scalable, and successful organizations. Accion Venture Lab continued investing in and supporting innovative fintech startups that improve access, quality, and affordability of financial services for the underserved at scale. Accion is also the anchor investor, general partner, and sponsor of the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, a global fintech fund for the underserved, managed by Quona Capital. The Fund continued to invest in companies that innovate to expand access to financial services to underserved consumers and businesses in emerging markets.
Each Accion team continued pursuing opportunities with the greatest potential to create a financially inclusive world:
Accion helped Myanmar’s DAWN Microfinance digitize its operations, reducing the time needed to complete paperwork from four hours to 20 minutes. Over three years, DAWN grew from 25,000 clients to more than 200,000 since our partnership began in 2015; its success can encourage other organizations to work for a more financially inclusive Myanmar.
Accion partner Aye Finance uses technology to help entrepreneurs obtain financing to purchase materials, hire, and expand. Since Accion’s partnership with Aye began in 2015, we’ve helped Aye improve its lending strategy, build a high-quality portfolio, and grow to serve more than 75,000 borrowers. Accion helped Aye develop a mobile bookkeeping app that assists with inventory tracking, accounts receivable, and loan due dates, enabling Aye to provide more small businesses with financing.
Accion Global Investments helped Sub-K bring savings, payments, and credit to ‘last mile’ customers living in India’s rural communities. Sub-K’s agent network and relationships with third-party banks helped it provide nearly two million customers with high-quality financial services, no matter where they live or work.
In Mozambique, nearly 60 percent of adults lack access to formal financial services. In 2018, the investments team began working with Socremo Microfinance Bank to help more underserved families and businesses thrive. Socremo provided more than 47,000 clients with individual lending products, deposits, and insurance throughout the year. By helping the bank integrate a digital strategy, we worked together to extend inclusive financial services to more clients.
Accion Venture Lab’s 2018 investment in Tez marked Accion’s first partnership in Pakistan, where more than half of adults lack access to formal financial services. As Pakistan’s first all-digital bank, Tez extends financial services to the underserved, including a nano-credit product that provides thin-file customers with the financing they need, when they need it.
Accion Venture Lab helped portfolio partner Pula segment its agro-dealer partners, improving its operations and enhancing its ability to bundle insurance with seed, fertilizer, and credit to protect smallholder farmers’ crops. The team also helped Pula improve its employee engagement strategy and develop a performance management program to train, motivate, and retain staff.
Accion built strong partnerships to continue expanding our impact around the world. For instance, in 2018, Mastercard and Accion announced a first-of-its-kind partnership to transform millions of underserved micro and small businesses around the world. Through insights, innovations, and investments, we will power microbusinesses to successfully operate in and benefit from the digital economy. We aim to reach up to 10 million clients, including four million merchants, leading to greater financial inclusion, economic growth, and job creation.
Accion’s new partnership with MetLife Foundation began advancing financial inclusion for underserved individuals around the world. The project — Building Financial Capabilities and Strengthening Institutions through Customer-Centered Innovations — aims to enhance financial customer engagement by building their financial capabilities. Accion’s advisory team and CFI began supporting a select group of financial service providers in Chile, Mexico, Myanmar, Poland, and Serbia by designing digital tools and services informed by human-centered design; incorporating behavioral principles that spur usage and empower clients; and enabling financial service providers to effectively leverage and utilize data.
These partnerships allowed us to share global insights and best practices with the broader industry. For example, with the support of the Citi Foundation, Accion’s advisory team detailed how innovations in digital lending can enable financial service providers to offer better products to more underserved clients.
With support from the Mastercard Foundation, Venture Lab examined how eight of its portfolio partners calibrate their use of technology and human touch to improve customer acquisition, customer engagement, collections, and more in The Tech Touch Balance.
To share Accion’s insights directly with entrepreneurs, Venture Lab and the Mastercard Foundation began recruiting experienced business executives with entrepreneurial aspirations to create a successful inclusive fintech startup from scratch in Nigeria through the Company Builder initiative in 2018.
In 2018, Accion Venture Lab made its first investments in insurtech companies: new organizations that use emerging technologies to help protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
- Lumkani uses an internet-connected heat detector to give South Africans living in informal settlements insurance that protects against the loss of life, shelter, and assets in the case of a fire.
- Pula uses satellite data to assess how a client’s farm is performing and provides them with agricultural advice via text messages that helps protect against crop loss.
- Toffee Insurance works with retailers in India to offer ‘bite-size’ insurance policies that cover what clients need most.
Because no single product or service is enough to create a financially inclusive world, Accion continued working holistically to ensure that the entire industry valued its clients, understood their needs, and helped them live financially healthy lives.
The Center for Financial Inclusion
The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) continued to engage and challenge the industry to better serve, protect, and empower clients. In 2018, CFI published new research assessing global progress toward financial inclusion and best practices to develop client protection, good governance, financial health, and responsible investment practices for financial institutions.
In 2018, CFI’s study of the World Bank’s Global Findex found that, between 2014 and 2017, the world made remarkable progress expanding access to formal financial services. But there’s still so much more work to do: CFI’s research revealed that, in developing countries, savings declined, the use of formal credit was flat, and resilience — customers’ ability to recover from financial shocks — failed to improve. CFI’s findings underscored the urgent need to create financial services that help underserved families build better lives.
CFI celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, marking the milestone with an essay series, Getting Inclusion Right. The series featured in-depth looks at next-generation challenges for financial inclusion, like ensuring that digital financial services meet women’s needs and creating the right infrastructure to support inclusive financial services. CFI also began looking ahead, planning how to address these new issues and to help low-income clients thrive.
The Smart Campaign, a global consumer protection standard for the excluded and underserved — and a signature CFI initiative — continued helping organizations around the world deliver financial services safely and responsibly to low-income clients. The Smart Campaign achieved a key milestone when it certified its 100th financial institution for adhering to the Campaign’s rigorous client protection principles. At the end of 2018, the Smart Campaign had certified 106 institutions that served more than 43 million clients.
CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship Program (ABF) continued to help financial institutions embrace good governance and risk management strategies while maintaining their mission to help underserved clients. Nearly 300 Fellows — representing 71 financial institutions that collectively serve more than seven million clients — have graduated from the program. Some ABF graduates were also admitted to the Harvard Business School – Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance, which has brought together over 900 participants from more than 100 countries over the last 14 years.
CFI’s ambitious 2018 research agenda included:
- Finance for All: The latest report in the Banana Skins series found that mastering emerging technologies was the top risk for those working to advance financial inclusion. Written jointly with the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, and with support from the Citi Foundation, the report underscored the need to design digital financial products specifically for the excluded and underserved.
- Global Microscope 2018: This index assessed the enabling environment for financial inclusion in 55 countries. Its ranking system included a focus on digital financial services and the critical ways that financial inclusion contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. CFI encouraged global regulators to use these rankings to evaluate and improve their own policies to help more families and businesses benefit from the formal financial sector.
- Toward a Financial Health Tool for Consumers: Working with the Microfinance Centre, CFI began developing a tool to help financial service providers and their customers gauge and improve their financial health and reach their goals.
Since 2015 and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the CFI Fellows Program has encouraged independent researchers and analysts to systematically examine some of the most important challenges in financial inclusion. In 2018, CFI Fellows published new research on digital financial services, data security, and responsible digital credit.
Likewise, CFI’s institutional partnership with the Institute of International Finance, Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion: Best Practices, continued to identify the barriers mainstream financial institutions encounter when developing inclusive products and services. With support from MetLife Foundation, the collaboration shared strategies for financial service providers to insure some of the world’s most vulnerable people; use technology to better understand and serve clients; and build clients’ financial capability through good product design.
Accion in the U.S.
In the United States, Accion continued to help small businesses thrive and build vibrant communities by providing capital, partnering with trusted advisors who support entrepreneurs, and advocating for greater transparency and fairness in the small business lending industry. Accion in the U.S. is grateful to its partners, including the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, MetLife Foundation, the Sam’s Club Giving Program, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their dedication and openness to trying new approaches to better support underserved small businesses.
jobs created or maintained
entrepreneurs supported with digital educational resources
In 2018, Accion in the U.S. strengthened its data analytics capacity to better understand small business owners’ needs and improve their experience when applying for capital. Accion in the U.S. created a data warehouse and data visualization dashboards to compile and analyze information from across its loan portfolio and support more informed decision-making. Accion in the U.S. also made data about its lending activity, performance, and customer base available online. At industry conferences, Accion in the U.S. shared the lessons it had learned through this work with others who were interested in strengthening their own data analytics capacity.
A recent evaluation study revealed that, despite significant gains in financial stability and business growth, many of Accion in the U.S.’s clients continued to feel anxious about their finances in the years following their loans. To address this, Accion in the U.S. launched a pilot partnership with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a provider of financial empowerment services and products, to offer clients personal financial coaching. Advisors helped nearly 150 Accion in the U.S. clients create and stick to plans to reach their financial goals. Because of this coaching, nearly half of all participants improved their credit scores, reduced their total debt, and/or reduced their collections balances. Participants took specific actions because of the counseling, including paying down credit card balances and setting up emergency funds.
In the United States, consumer protections for financial products don’t apply to business financing. Because of this regulatory gap, some companies charge triple-digit annualized percentage rates that they fail to disclose to borrowers. As a co-founder of the Responsible Business Lending Coalition, which created the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, Accion in the U.S. has advocated for greater transparency and fairness in the small business lending space since 2015. In 2018, the Coalition’s advocacy contributed to important milestones for responsible business lending practices, including the nation’s first small business truth-in-lending law in California.
In 2018, Accion in the U.S. supported more entrepreneurs than ever before with online educational resources that help them overcome challenges in starting or growing a business. Traffic to its business resource library, which contains articles and videos on a variety of business topics, more than doubled in 2018. Accion in the U.S. also achieved a more than 50 percent increase in subscribers for its business resource e-newsletter and continued to improve its digital experience to help entrepreneurs access the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Your support is powerful
Your support provides the funding that allows us to sustain our work developing new products, markets, and policies.
Philanthropy supports everything that we do. With your help, we will build a financially inclusive world for this generation – where every individual has access to high-quality, affordable financial services and economic potential.
We thank you for supporting our work and we ask you to continue helping us build a financially inclusive world.
Accion’s audited 2018 financial statement is available here.
Board of Directors
You can view Accion’s Board of Directors here.