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SymBanc™: A Simulator for Microfinance Institutions. Gary Hirsch, Guy Stuart, Jay Rosengard, Don Johnston International System Dynamics Conference July 20, 2005. Microfinance. Financial services for the poor Services Savings Credit Insurance Remittances and transfer payments

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symbanc a simulator for microfinance institutions

SymBanc™: A Simulator for Microfinance Institutions

Gary Hirsch, Guy Stuart,

Jay Rosengard, Don Johnston

International System Dynamics Conference

July 20, 2005

slide2

Microfinance

  • Financial services for the poor
  • Services
    • Savings
    • Credit
    • Insurance
    • Remittances and transfer payments
  • Poor = those living in households where the per capita expenditure is less than $1 per day, in developing and transitional economies
  • 2005 is the UN’s Year of Microcredit
slide3

Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)

  • MFIs range in size and type from local savings cooperatives to large (divisions of) commercial banks
    • E.g. Grameen Bank, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, BancoSol, Compartamos, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank
    • Largest institutions are in Asia, especially South and South-East Asia
  • Mission can be one or all of:
    • Financial intermediation
    • Economic development
    • Poverty alleviation
    • Women’s empowerment
slide4

Active Clients

  • Credit
    • Active clients = has outstanding loan at time of report
    • Microcredit Summit in 2004 reports that, as of 12/31/2003, its 2,931 member institutions had just under 81 million active clients -- this is hard to believe
    • Good guesstimate: 60m to 70m active clients
  • More savers than borrowers
    • “Big four” Bangladeshi MFIs have over 10m savers (same # as borrowers)
    • BRI has 30m savers (10x the # of its borrowers)
    • Numerous credit unions and cooperatives provide savings services
  • No good count of insurance clients – many borrowers pay for life insurance to cover the outstanding balance of their loan in case they die
    • New medical insurance products being developed-jury is out
slide5

Strategic Questions

  • Urban/rural
  • Women only, men and women
  • Group or individual lending
  • Credit only, or credit and savings
slide6

Operational Issues: Information and Cash Flows

  • Large number of small transactions:
    • Swakrushi Federation of cooperatives in Andhra Pradesh, India process about 80,000 savings deposits of Rs.20 (40 cents) per month, through 259 coops
    • In May 2004 BRI made 211,320 loans with avg. size of just under $1,000, through approx. 4,000 local offices
    • ASA in Bangladesh had 264 borrowers and 290 savers per staff member as of 12/31/2003 (mixmarket.org)
  • Highly reliant on local, non-formal information, and information feedback from own operations. Results in:
    • Step lending
    • Aggressive delinquency management based on good MIS
    • Great emphasis on maintaining institutional reputation of “fair but firm”
design features to enhance learning the model
Design Features to Enhance Learning: The Model
  • Realistic constraints eliminate easy options, require thoughtful strategies
  • Tradeoffs require careful choices--e.g., aggressive marketing or high interest rates may increase revenue, but attract poor credit risks or create repayment problems
  • Short-term profitability vs. long-term viability
  • Easy to “paint yourself into a corner” and run out of money despite early breakeven
design features to enhance learning interface
Design Features to Enhance Learning: Interface
  • Students can control how often decisions are made, must keep their “eye on the ball”
  • They can compare results across strategies to identify relative advantages
  • Capability to drill down into detailed results to understand what’s happening
  • Dump results to spreadsheet to do more extensive analysis
  • Challenging scenarios let students reality-test strategies
what students learn from using symbanc tm
What Students Learn from Using SymBancTM
  • There are characteristic ways of failing such as growth outrunning capital or pursuing high volume at the expense of profit and building equity
  • There is no single right answer; multiple ways to succeed depending on objectives
  • Strategies dorequire internal consistency--the right combinations of target market, product design, staffing and branch expansion, and funding sources
  • Good strategies under some circumstances may not survive economic shocks; need to be resilient
slide23

SymBanc™ As A Teaching Tool (1)

  • SymBanc™ developed initially for FIPED (Financial Institutions for Private Enterprise Development)
    • International executive program at KSG/Harvard University
    • 2-week program offered once a year since 1995
    • Covers both microfinance and SME finance (MSMEs)
    • Focuses on the sustainable provision of financial services for MSMEs and low-income households
    • Participants senior executives from financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, and international assistance agencies & high-ranking government officials
    • Consists of core lectures, applied case studies, practical exercises, simulated negotiations, participant presentations
slide24

SymBanc™ As A Teaching Tool (2)

  • SymBanc™ funding from Harvard Provost’s Fund for Instructional Technology – for promoting the innovative use of IT in teaching
  • Introduced in stages to facilitate familiarization
  • Participants divided into three-person teams
  • Taught as case studies
    • Multiple scenarios with different policy objectives
    • Preparation at home with discussions in class
    • Interactive, iterative, and competitive
    • Everything in one small file on rented laptops
slide25

SymBanc™ As A Teaching Tool (3)

  • More efficient & effective than conventional means to:
    • Introduce complex policy (strategic) and operational (tactical) interrelationships
    • Explore tradeoffs between achievement of institutional mission and financial sustainability
    • Confirm or refute assumptions and preconceptions
  • Reflects messiness of real world
    • No single “correct” answer - bundles of viable scenarios
    • Important to identify and mitigate unanticipated shocks
    • SymBanc™ simulation is truly a dynamic system