editorial

Digital transformation for proximity and inclusion

Miguel Ángel Charria Liévano, Executive President of Bancamía, member institution in the BBVA Microfinance Foundation Group

Miguel Ángel Charria Liévano, Executive President of Bancamía, member institution in the BBVA Microfinance Foundation Group

In recent years we have seen how digital transformation has been rising up the list of priorities until it is now top of the agenda for institutions in the global financial sector.

In recent years we have seen how digital transformation has been rising up the list of priorities until it is now top of the agenda for institutions in the global financial sector.  The significant amount of money invested and the progress made are now there for all to see in the new players on the financing markets, as increasingly complex products come into our hands via our mobile phones, and interoperability, cashless transactions, etc, become commonplace.

In this environment, microfinance institutions are going to be at the forefront of change, accompanying part of the population excluded from traditional banking facilities. Our calling leads us to employ methods that not only help draw such people into the financial system, but also let us to stay by their side as they develop their businesses and interests. Microfinance has found an ally in technology, which enables us to reach increasing numbers of low-income individuals, giving them the chance to open a savings account, get a loan, access investment products and be protected by micro-insurance.

Three years ago, in Bancamía, with backing from the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, we set out on a digital transformation journey. Our goal was to bring the best financial technology within reach of low-income entrepreneurial Colombians in various parts of the country, particularly rural areas, who had no access to formal mechanisms for obtaining finance.

Making contact with more micro-entrepreneurs in both the countryside and the city, increasing their financial inclusion, improving their customer experience, speeding up our processes and simplifying our officers' transactional tasks… We could set ourselves these goals when we started to put technology at the heart of our activity. That is why we began by modernizing our banking core, so we could lay strong foundations on which all our microfinance management could be based.

After that, we developed the idea of taking our institution to where clients carry out their productive activities. Under our mobility program, we gave each and every one of our officers a tablet and an app with a range of features, including the possibility for them to onboard customers wherever they might be, assess their loan applications and open a savings account for them. Now, micro-entrepreneurs no longer have to spend time and money traveling to us; and we have reduced the use of paper while substantially shortening our lead times.  We are very close to having a 100% online credit process, with our incorporation of the digital IOU, the roll-out of digital case files, and the development of digital signatures using biometrics.

Following the precepts of mobility and proximity to the customer, and using proprietary technology, we have achieved a 500% increase in the number of banking agents we have in rural and remote areas, reaching a total of 250 throughout the country. We have also created a new model, a combination of personal service and online processes, that we call Express Offices, which are now established in parts of the country where there were no banks, but where Bancamía now has a presence.

In January we will be launching our fully digital virtual office. Our customers can conduct their transactions directly over our website, doing things that up to now could only be handled in-branch: learning about and transacting business with all Bancamía's products, making interbank transfers, paying their utility bills by direct debit, etc.  We are also progressing fast in upscaling our mobile banking app, which takes our institution out to our customers' mobile phones. 140,000 micro-entrepreneurs are already using our tools, a third of whom are living in the Colombian countryside. Our great success with these remote channels lies in the accompaniment that our entire sales force has given to customers, with an online training process to help them adopt these new technologies.

Relationship banking is and will continue to be at the heart of our activity as we journey together with all our customers and provide them with on-the-spot advice when and where they need it. We have discovered a great opportunity in digital transformation. It has enabled us to incorporate new technologies into the traditional microfinance model, making it more efficient, but without losing the chance to get to know our customers, to make them more financially literate and to accompany them closely as they build their development plan.

Continue reading the magazine nº 17

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