Finclusion Group’s SmartAdvance has recently undergone its first Social Rating Assessment by MicrofInanza Rating, which provides independent ratings aiming at enhancing transparency, facilitating investments, and promoting responsible practices of organisations that work to achieve financial inclusion and sustainable development. SmartAdvance earned a BB- rating from the global agency.
This report hailed the business’s client privacy practices as excellent while prevention of over-indebtedness and responsible pricing as adequte, although it highlights that product design has room for improvement. The business’ client complaint channels are also highlighted as being good, as there are multiple channels for clients to air their complaints and it does not necessarily have to be their original point of contact.
The business is on track to realising its goal and vision to deliver personalised financial services safely and easily through technology, with the mission and vision statements having been formalised recently (after the business’s rebrand in February 2021) and implementation is still ongoing. The company’s draft strategic plan includes goals and targets relevant to social performance.
SmartAdvance’s current customer base shows that 60% of its clients are women and the average loan balance per borrower (12%) indicates good outreach to the low-income population segment. ‘The loan products offered have adequate accessibility and flexibility. The need for clients to cope with emergencies is adequately met by the products offered.’, highlights the report.
“As the head of the business, I cannot ignore the impact of the pandemic and subsequent economic shutdowns. We have done our best to keep going and to be responsible for our growth. As the report indicates, there’s an increase in the number of loan seekers, however, we have erred on the side of caution as ours first and foremost, is to have responsible lending practices and to encourage responsible credit to our customers.”, stated Gerrie Fourie, the Head of SmartAdvance
The rating agency has also noted that staff gender balance is adequate, with 56% being women and a further 50% of women holding managerial positions. The company’s geographical coverage is adequate despite having no branch network however, outreach to households with relatively low-income levels is adequate. Staff initial and ongoing training is adequate with transparent and formalized HR policies where growth opportunities are generally well communicated.
Gerrie emphasized that ‘This is the first Social Rating report for the business and we are encouraged. We do not dismiss the recommendations made by MFR, although, we take pride in knowing that our hard work is showing, and although there’s room for improvement, the team can rest assured that their work is impactful to the clients and the market we serve.’
SmartAdvance also offers relevant non-financial services in the form of training and tools that are designed to impart financial management skills to clients. This includes a downloadable budgeting tool on the website, as well as videos and blogs which are easily accessible and uptake has been deemed adequate among active clients.
Finclusion Group is enhancing financial inclusion in Africa by building transformative financial technology services focused on high-growth market segments, providing world-class customer experiences. Our businesses leverage our credit, risk and technology expertise to grant financial services safely and easily using advanced, proprietary AI algorithms. Our current key focus areas are financial wellness, credit scoring and direct lending, operating through the brands Fractal Labs, smartadvance, niftycredit, niftycover, TrustGro and Click2Pay in South Africa, Eswatini, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania. More info on www.finclusiongroup.com.