“Microfinance has always been a high-touch business, with personal contact playing an indispensable role in the delivery of financial services for low-income clients. Human relationships and values like trust and empathy are crucial in determining whether a microfinance institution (MFI) will be able to grow and remain sustainable. And it is the MFIs’ frontline staff – the loan officers and other field staff – who must uphold these values and relationships with their clients, presenting the face of the MFI to their most important public – their clients.” (quoted from Want to Stay in Business? Keep your Loan Officers Happy). Please check out Nupur Maroti’s insightful blog linked above for a full context of some of the challenges field officers face in the field along with suggestions for MFIs to better support them.
Outstanding Field Officers Serve an Important Role
WPF’s Field Officer Appreciation Award is an initiative to support our partners to recognize the hard work done by field staff on the front lines of microfinance. During quarter one, WPF disbursed prizes to the field officers who were nominated by our microfinance partners at the end of 2018. Here are some highlights from this group of nominees from the Asia/Pacific region and some lovely award ceremonies that our partners have shared. Even with the personalized recognition, all the staff chose to share their prize with their colleagues and/or the clients they serve!
Grand Prize Winners
Ms. Nolibeth Ybanez Pacaldo from Access to Energy (Ate Co.) Philippines:
Ms. Nolibeth started as an Ate Co. customer, then she became an area cash collector and currently an Area Prospection Officer.
WPF and Ate Co. presented the award to Nolibeth together in January 2019 when staff visited Ate Co. along with some visitors from WFM as well.
With the prize, Nolibeth will be acquiring a second-hand vehicle, a 3-wheeler, which she can use for her cash collection and mobile store in her neighborhood. The remainder will be a bonus for Nolibeth, of which she plans to host a gathering for her customers and save the remainder.
Mr. Chandra Mani Pandey from NULBSL Nepal:
In this photograph, Mr. Chandra is in the background, explaining about microfinance and the group lending model to a visitor on Whole Foods Market supplier donor trip in September 2018.
Chandra was an invaluable guide to the group’s visit to Ilam, putting together a schedule that let us follow along with the microfinance activity, translating conversations with clients and introducing the group to some local cuisine.
NULBSL shared the prize between an award for Mr. Pandey and an award for his whole branch office.
Ms. Tran Thi Hong from TYM Vietnam:
Ms. Hong manages 11% more members than the TYM average, her savings mobilization rate is 70% higher than her target, her loan portfolio size is 50% higher than her target and her borrowers’ repayment rate has always been 100%!
According to TYM management, “Wherever Mrs. Hong goes, she makes everyone more enthusiastic, happy, encouraged and more productive and creative with their work.”
Like NULBSL, TYM shared the prize between an award for Ms. Tran and an award for her whole branch office.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Du from Mekong Plus Vietnam:
Ms. Du was nominated for her work mobilizing community resources to provide scholarships for borrowers’ children and donations for borrowers with chronic illnesses.
With the award, Mekong Plus split it between a bonus for Ms. Du, purchasing tools for a program teaching children with disabilities; contribution towards the medical treatment of a sick member of one of the participants and lastly to purchase a motorbike for a participating household!
Ms. Yasmin Parveen from Sampurna Training and Entrepreneurship Programme in Kolkata, India:
According to Ms. Parveen, “My biggest challenge to work as a field officer was the gender based mindset of the people. Letting the females work outside their home was considered a shameful thing in the community. Whenever there was a problem the male members of the family used to come forward and not the females. So, I decided to change this mindset. Along with my daily job responsibilities I used to visit these families and talked with male member of the family. Now, the women are allowed to go outside to work, study, learn some skills, etc.”
Ms. Parveen is pictured above with her parents who came to show their support at STEP’s award ceremony. With this year’s prize funds, STEP divided half for a prize for Yasmin and the other half to create a reserve for a new yearly award program. STEP will contribute equal amounts into the reserve and in this way, be able to honor an additional three field officers or department staff members every year.
Honorable Mentions: Congratulations to all of the Nominees!