Certification Assessments

The Smart Assessment: an In-Depth Client Protection Diagnostic Tool

Overview: What is a Smart Assessment?

A Smart Assessment is an external diagnostic tool for a financial institution   to thoroughly examine its implementation of the seven Client Protection Principles. It is an excellent mechanism for a financial institution to mitigate the risk of harming its clients and business potential, as it takes the institution through a process of internal review to identify strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately opportunities to enhance its practices around client protection.

Benefits:

A Smart Assessment is a major step toward securing an institution’s position as a pro-consumer organization. It receives a full diagnosis of its practices vis-à-vis the Client Protection Principles. The institution has the opportunity to examine which of its current practices strongly support the principles and which need improvement. With the insight and expertise of Smart-Accredited Assessors, a financial institution will better understand client protection and how to improve its practices after undergoing an assessment. If an institution is willing to publish the results of an assessment, it will be able to advertise itself as a pro-consumer organization before key stakeholders, clients, investors, regulators, and the public. Additional advantages of undergoing a Smart Assessment to improve client protection can include:

  • Strong client protection practices support increased client retention
  • Awareness of strengths and weaknesses helps an organization take steps to mitigate risks
  • Helps retain staff by putting into practice the institution’s  corporate values
  • Attracts investments from social investors and donors
  • Builds the brand of the financial institution as one that is loyal to its clients
  • Prepares a Financial Institution for a Certification Mission

The full text of the Smart Assessment belongs to the organization being assessed, and the organization may publish it on their websites and/or in other public materials. All accredited assessors are required to share the final reports of assessed institutions with the Smart Campaign.The Campaign engourages that assessed organizations also share their assessment reports in the Smart Campaign website to contribute to the body of knowledge available on client protection.

Time:

An assessment typically lasts four to five days with two Smart-Certified Assessors on-site. An institution should expect their management and operations personnel to be highly engaged throughout the process.

Process:

Two Smart Accredited Assessors will visit the institution on-site to examine how the financial institution implements the Client Protection Principles at three broad levels: 1) market and regulatory context, 2) institutional policies, procedures, and systems, and 3) organizational culture and how policies are reflected in staff behavior. The Smart Assessment will review the institution’s documentation and hold interviews with leadership, management, and key line staff. The assessment team will also observe staff-customer interaction at the branch level.

Updated Assessment Methodology:

The Assessment Methodology was updated in July 2013 to reflect the seven Client Protection Principles and to be more user-friendly for Assessors. With the capability to choose English, Spanish, and French languages from within the tool itself, this updated version of the Assessment Methodology is now more standardized for use.

At the end of the assessment, a de-briefing will be held with management to discuss areas of good performance and areas of vulnerability. In contrast with many other forms of assessment, a Smart Assessment includes recommendations for upgrading initiatives that the institution can undertake to address identified weaknesses. No later than four weeks after the assessment, the team will provide a detailed written report which contains the Smart Assessors’ diagnostic findings and recommendations for action.

Several of the Client Protection Certified institutions first underwent assessments to improve and enhance their practices in client protection to prepare for their certification missions. As a mark of excellence in client care for financial institutions, the road to Client Protection Certification is often paved with first participating in a Smart Assessment. The Smart Campaign encourages those that undergo Smart Assessments to consider becoming certified as a way to show that it meets the industry standard in client protection.

Smart Assessment Report

A Smart Assessment Report is a diagnostic of the way a microfinance institution translates the Client Protection Principles into practice.

Please follow the link to view the template of the Smart Assessment Report. This identifies both strong practices and practices that may present vulnerabilities within an institution. It presents suggestions developed through joint discussion between institutional staff and the Assessment team for upgrading efforts (including the use of Client Protection Tools) that the institution could undertake to improve implementation of the Client Protection Principles.

Scoring:

The scoring scale in the final report has changed to align with the scoring scale for the Client Protection Certification Methodology. The indicators are scored on whether it meets, partially meets, or does not meet the indicator, as well as “N/A” for which the indicator cannot be applied. This revision in the scoring methodology was enacted to mitigate any ambiguities there could have been on the assessor’s interpretation of the institution’s performance.

*If you are interested in taking part in an in-depth client protection assessment, please contact Sergio Guzmán at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at the Smart Campaign and/or reach out to one of the Lead Assessors from your region.