It’s hard to find a downside to encouraging people to save more money. Savings can help businesses and individuals reach their long-term goals and protect them from economic shocks. Recognizing the need for better savings opportunities among underserved microentrepreneurs, many microfinance institutions in Latin America have launched programs and initiatives to get their customers to save more. These banks often find that they also benefit by boosting savings because they can diversify their funding structure, reduce risk, and generate customer loyalty that comes with offering a comprehensive suite of services.
Despite the win-win opportunity, institutions still encounter barriers to launching a savings product. These accounts are frequently left dormant by customers and driving usage may not be a priority for an institution that’s structured around credit operations. On all sides, savings products face an extra hurdle because everyone wants immediate results. Savings products compete with other services (like credit products) that are more attractive to clients and institutions. Many people prefer getting the funds they need immediately through a loan rather than putting in the time and effort it takes to accumulate savings. For the institution, credit provides them with income as soon as it’s disbursed, whereas savings translates to more long-term yields.
An effective savings product can help customers think more long-term if it’s complemented with a marketing campaign that motivates a change in people’s behavior. And the product itself should also drive the customer to want to use it with both digital and physical channels that create a positive customer experience. Mibanco, a leading microfinance bank in Peru, has done just that. In 2016, the bank was experiencing low growth rates in new accounts and a high dormancy with its existing savings accounts. The bank initiated a campaign to make sure clients were getting what they needed from their financial services. With the support of Accion’s Global Advisory Solutions, Mibanco used a client-centered design methodology to understand customers’ needs. The institution conducted interviews, developed financial diaries, and mapped the customer journey so that it could develop products and channels that reflected clients’ lives. Based on this research, Mibanco launched “tigres de ahorro” (or tigers of saving).
This initiative launched in August 2017 with a new set of products aimed at the underserved. These products include features and functionalities that motivate savings — like tying savings to the clients dreams and aspirations and reminding the user about their goals — while also providing the flexibility and convenience valued by customers. The bank added additional channels — including agents, digital solutions, and a motivational communications plan — to complement the new products and encourage greater savings. The products’ homepage even busts myths about saving.
As of March 2019, more than 280.000 new accounts have been opened and deposits have increased, showing that the product is attractive and useful to customers. Mibanco’s commitment and dedication to the project made this possible — the institution adjusted internal processes, trained its commercial force, and built in monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
We’re glad to support the work Mibanco is doing because saving money is critical to help microentrepreneurs build a more stable future. We hope that “tigres de ahorro” continues to motivate even more people to save and fosters financial health.