The impact of the novel coronavirus has been unprecedented. More than a third of the world’s population has experienced some form of lockdown. Nearly three fourths of students worldwide have been affected by school closures. And, in the US alone, over 30 million people have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. While the virus has left no one untouched, those living in poverty—like many people in the FINCA network—have been and will be some of the most affected.
Now more than ever, people need safe and reliable access to their finances. For this reason, the FINCA Impact Finance network of banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world are remaining steadfast in their commitment to serve their clients and communities. And while all FINCA banking and MFIs are complying with government mandates and regulations, many are going above and beyond to help their employees, clients, and communities stay healthy and safe.
This is the first of a series of three blog posts that will provide a network update. Each will explore how the FINCA network is adapting operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This article will focus on our microfinance and financial service operations. The second blog post will focus on our social enterprise partners, and the last post will focus on our BrightLife program.
Read on to learn about the FINCA microfinance network update:
Encouraging Branchless Communications
First and foremost, all FINCA Impact Finance banks and MFIs are encouraging branchless interactions through digital channels. Many are encouraging customers to stay home by providing them with an abundance of ways to get in contact or complete transactions without coming into a branch.
For FINCA Zambia, their mobile app enables customers to check their balances, transfer money, pay bills, and more. Though Zambia has experienced less cases and deaths in comparison to many other countries, it is thought that the country is still in the early stages of the outbreak. This makes FINCA Zambia’s efforts even more important in preventing the spread of the virus and helping flatten the curve.
Encouraging Work-From-Home When Possible
Many FINCA branches are also enabling and encouraging staff to work from home if possible. FINCA Jordan, for example, has equipped its staff with the necessary capabilities to answer calls and otherwise communicate with customers from the safety of their own homes.
While Jordan has become one of the first Middle Eastern countries to ease its lockdown, it is able to do so because it took swift and drastic measures to prevent COVID-19 from taking hold in its early stages. For almost 40 days, the country was basically shut down with strict curfews and travel restrictions. However, FINCA Jordan’s quick action to accommodate these measures has helped people maintain access to their finances throughout the crisis.
Providing COVID-19-Specific Resources
Some FINCA programs have deployed COVID-specific resource pages on their websites. FINCA Bank Kyrgyzstan’s dedicated COVID-19 resource page provides an online application for loan restructuring, options for different branchless payment channels, updated operating hours and information on branch closures, as well as providing a range of contact points if clients have questions.
This resource has been crucial throughout the country-wide state of emergency that was issued in March and extended through April. This order, effectively a lockdown, closed all non-essential business and restricted travel throughout Kyrgyzstan.
Adapting Branches to Comply with Health Guidelines
Despite FINCA’s many digital and branchless financial service offerings, some people still need to come into a bank branch. For this reason, many banks and MFIs have been deemed essential services and remain open to help their clients. However, branches that are open have implemented a variety of safety measures to comply with public health and distancing guidelines.
For example, FINCA Ecuador has implemented many strict prevention measures in every branch across the country. Upon entering, clients and employees must have their temperatures taken and and provided with hand sanitizer and a general disinfection. Branches have also added floor markers to maintain social distance and are frequently disinfecting high-touch points. As the hardest hit country in Latin America with a death toll thought to be twice as high as the next highest Latin American country, these prevention measures are crucial to ensuring the health and safety of FINCA staff, clients, and the greater Ecuadorian society.
Using Existing Networks and Platforms to Disseminate Health Guidelines
With its long-standing presence in the communities where we work, FINCA has become a trusted source of information for clients. This makes FINCA the perfect vehicle to provide expert information from credible sources regarding COVID-19. Our programs around the world are using the relationships we’ve built to help clients, as well as their communities at large, receive and understand these local health and expert guidelines. This is important in order to combat the pervasive lack of or misinformation about the virus from non-expert sources.
In Pakistan, this has been extremely important, as the country has been easing its lockdown restrictions to prevent an economic crisis, which has caused its case numbers to rise. FINCA Pakistan is using the information campaign it launched across several media channels to provide credible, accurate and helpful information about COVID-19.