Project Pamoja is a partnership between Capco and Bankers without Borders. Through the partnership, Capco is building a data analysis tool to easily analyze Risk and Audit Reporting for Musoni bank in Kenya, along with providing training documentation for staff and providing a long term recommendation for a technology solution. The following blogs are team members’ reflections throughout various project life cycles.
by Gracie Hollis
We cite disruption at Capco as the objective of many of our projects; browsing the Capco website or reading about projects in CapinTouch reinforces the excitement of participating in game-changing work within financial services industry. However, it may sound familiar that when working on the ground, for example documenting requirements or mapping data elements, the larger goal hazes a bit in the background while the task at hand consumes our attention.
Project Pamoja has been the opposite of the symptom above described; each call we have with the clients at Musoni bank in Kenya and each team meeting is rife with focus not only on the immediate deliverable but also on the larger picture, and how the small impact we are making is still so important. What I have enjoyed most about our project and specifically about our requirements documentation process is how tangibly we have seen our requirements and rules amount to a tool which will reduce the time Musoni spends analyzing reports in their Risk and Audit department.
My subscription to the importance of this project is supplemented by previous experience I had while working with microfinance banks in Bolivia; I was surveying women who were recipients of group loans to determine which bank services were most effective in improving social-familial relationships. While interviewing heads of these banks, I learned of the challenges of overhead costs for banks which offered low-interest loans to poor clients. This in mind, I am confidently optimistic that even a small amount of time saved doing analysis on reports each month will contribute to more time that bankers can spend working with clients, improving products, and expanding to provide other services to clients.
As an aside, while research on the impact of microfinance – a general term to describe financial services to low income individuals without access to typical banking services- is varied, the impact of a small loan for a family in poverty anywhere in the world is enormous: access to capital enables individuals to abandon reactionary healthcare and invest in preventative healthcare, open a small business, pay for school fees, purchase farm animals, and invest in the future of their children, among many other immediate and ripple effects. Ultimately, if microfinance banks can reach more people and offer more opportunities for capital with time previously spent running reports, we will have contributed a small (but important!) tool to Musoni's effort to disrupt global poverty.
Writing the business specifications document was the result of weekly 8:30 AM calls with Musoni over (often times spotty) Skype in which we discussed the purpose of the Excel-based tool, who would use it, and many other aspects of building. Kamay Li joined our team as a requirements expert, and we worked together to document all rules, requirements, and objectives. This cross-Capco collaboration was another exciting aspect of the project; Kay’s expertise enabled us to thoroughly create the foundation on which our team is now building the tool. As we enter the development stage of the project, our calls continue to reinforce the importance of energy saved for Musoni bank as our clients work to alleviate effects of global poverty one loan at a time. I am so appreciative that I was selected to be a part of this amazing journey, and am even more grateful for the wonderful people I met throughout the partnership!
The Future of Microfinance
by Kamay Li
One is a global management consultancy backed by probably the world’s biggest provider of fintech solutions. The other is a mobile microfinance provider working to improve financial inclusion in Kenya. Both are trying to transform the future of finance.
For the past few months, I’ve had the great fortune to work on a Project with like-minded individuals and help shape what that future might look like in particular for Musoni – the world’s first 100% cash-free mobile microfinance organisation.
Musoni Kenya works with more than 16,000 borrowers and targets underbanked microentrepreneurs. As an example, this brief video gives a great view in how its helping rural farmers grow their businesses in a fast and reliable way.
A while ago, you may recall a fabulous post by Gracie Hollis about Phase 1 of this Project. Since that post, the team have worked to create a tool that will simplify the generation and navigation of key loans data that will ultimately support risk monitoring and audit planning work. Hats off to our technology consultants, Mohit and Zach on building this tool!
Alongside this tool, I have been working with Gracie and Zach to propose what ‘the next step’ would be in Musoni’s Risk and Audit evolution. This meant answering the question, how can we help Musoni better understand and minimise their risks of default and fraud?
To start, we had to understand what it is that Musoni does today and that in itself is so interesting because it really is SO DIFFERENT to the models of the massive global banks we work with every day. For example, if we consider the circumstances of Musoni’s clients for a minute – they are widely dispersed in rural areas, may not have consistent access to computers and are small business owners. This means that if you want to apply for a loan and keep being a customer, you have to attend regular group meetings run by loans officers. These meetings are not only meant to help monitor upcoming repayments but also to provide financial literacy training.
Brainstorming the future state of a Kenyan microfinance organisation has been in a word – enlightening. The initial vision that sprung to my mind was in the form of even more questions: How can we marry the work of loans officers on the ground with better understanding of loans data? Can we predict or better understand patterns in loan defaults to support customers more in advance? These conversations have led us down some truly thought-provoking dialogue that in our clients’ words have been “eye opening, noble and something never thought of before.”
Before this project draws to its close before Christmas, Gracie will be presenting the final deliverable of these recommendations to Musoni. As things are coming to an end, it's a chance to reflect on the experience.
Rewinding back about 4 years when I was studying at university, I remember this little hope I had that one day I could get involved in a meaningful change that had a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to work on Project Pamoja the past few months. It’s been a learning curve to say the least – not only about microfinance in general but also about learning the challenges of balancing contribution with client commitments. I won’t lie – it was hard. But massively rewarding. I’m even more thankful to have worked in a virtual team of really great people who have helped pick up where I have struggled. Although we’ve been spread across Washington, New York, Edinburgh and Bangalore – we’ll always have this shared experience to look back on. Something I’ll never forget! Big thanks to the Project Manager Gabi Wolozin for getting me onboard and for driving the Project with our stakeholders in Kenya and to Fran Minien for his advice and guidance throughout.
by Zach Garman and Mohit Chandiramani
7:55 A.M.: Coffee
8:00-8:45 A.M.: Skype call to review drafted Data Analysis tool with Musoni
8:52 A.M.: Coffee refill
9:00 A.M.: Meeting with Capco-client stakeholders
For the last few months, this has been the rhythm of our Thursday mornings. As the project comes to a close, we realized the lessons learned working with our Bankers without Borders clients were ones we could directly apply to our Capco clients, and that those Thursday mornings had surprisingly common themes running through our daily schedule.
We were challenged with creating robust data analysis tools for the Risk and Audit department, with a friendly user interface and with capability to process large sets of data expeditiously. One tool would analyze monthly loan transactions to identify patterns, and the other would analyze a ledger of each client payment transaction. Our first challenge: there were no service level agreements or risk control frameworks, so it was entirely up to us how to design the tools. We mocked up Excel dashboards with functional themes such as searchability, exportability, and calculation in mind. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to present data and information to Musoni in a way which would better inform business decisions and the operations of the bank. For example, the department can now identify patterns which lead to late loan repayments or defaults among the thousands of loans processed monthly.
There were many major takeaways from the project, starting with our initial strategy: we took a ‘big bang’ approach to designing and creating the tool. We designed the tools fully and shared with the client once the first draft was finalized. It would definitely have been easier to have taken an iterative approach and share pieces of the tool with the client through the course of the development lifecycle, as there were no guiding design principles or frameworks established upfront. This leads to our second major takeaway, that the regulations and controls which are so often taken for granted on Capco’s conventional banking and technology projects are actually hugely useful in providing guidelines from which to work. It was exciting to work on a project where we utilized creativity and innovation to provide solutions to client needs, but we also realized how beneficial control frameworks are when working on major projects. Thirdly, we realized at the end of the project that the financial institutions which are our conventional clients have, at their core, a mission not unsimilar to Musoni’s: to channel finance and credit to hardworking individuals. The lessons learned on this project will have value for any project we work on moving forward- a big thank you to Musoni, to Bankers without Borders, and to Capco’s CSR for the opportunity to learn so much and be able to contribute to an amazing mission!