2. Assess

An assessment is a tool for institutions to examine their implementation of the seven Client Protection Principles. The internal review identifies strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately opportunities to enhance its practices around client protection to prepare for Certification.

* If you are interested in taking part in an in-depth client protection assessment, please email Daniel Balson  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.

Since 2010, 134 institutions have undergone a Smart Assessment

2014 Assessment Chart

 

An assessment can benefit your institution by evaluating how well you are meeting standards of client protection, by setting a starting point for strengthening your practices, by minimizing your risks and improving your profits, and by preparing you for Certification.

How does an assessment prepare for Certification?

An assessment is NOT required before Certification, but it does prepare your institution for the certification process. Certifiers can even use the assessment report for consultation during their mission. The crucial difference is that Certification is pass/fail and public unlike an assessment, which is confidential and provides number scores and guidance. The assessment report’s recommendations and analysis can be used toward a workplan for preparing to pass Certification.

What’s right for your institution?

There are three types of assessments for you to assess your client protection practices. Having several assessment options help avoid bottlenecks such as cost or availability of a consultant that might prevent institutions from evaluating their client practices. Your options include: a self-assessment done internally by staff at your institution, an accompanied self-assessment done by your staff and a person trained in the Smart Assessment methodology to guide you through the process, or a third-party external assessment referred to as a Smart Assessment. Your choice will depend on what your objectives are and what resources you can devote:

 Self-Assessment

Low-cost

Requires internal staff time

Provides an overview of major strengths and weaknesses

Accompanied Self-Assessment

Medium resource cost

Uses internal staff time, with guidance from an accedited CPP assessor. 

Results in the form of a short report are externally validated by the CPP assessor.

Smart Assessment (External Assessment)

Requires more resources

Led by a specially trained experienced accredited assessor team.

Results include in-depth analysis and a full narrative report

Learn more about each assessment type by clicking below:

 

Use the Getting Started Questionnaire to assess your client protection practices

Self-assessments generate a graphic overview and so are likely to produce less in-depth and less objective analysis than the others that benefit from an outsider’s perspective. A self-assessment gives the FI responsibility for determining the time they want to spend and the depth of analysis they want.

The Getting Started Questionnaire is the centerpiece of a self-assessment. This tool helps microfinance institutions begin to investigate their client protection practices within their organization. Based on the 95 indicators, the tool is a quick, low-cost way to evaluate your client protection practices.

The questionnaire is structured around the Client Protection Principles, each of which is subdivided in standards, which in turn are subdivided into indicators.

There are four categories of possible responses including: 

Meets the indicator
Partially meets the indicator
Does not meet the indicator
Does not apply

For each statement, the practitioner or assessor needs to evaluate the evidence from the MFI’s policies and staff interviews and determine which category most accurately represents the institution’s implementation of the statement.

Learn more about the GSQ and download the tool here.


Quick overview of the Accompanied Self-Assessment process

1. If you are a FI interested in doing an Accompanied Self-Assessment, the first step is to name a point person inside your institution who will be in charge of the assessment process. Anyone from the institution can be the designated focal point. Ideally, the focal point will be familiar with doing evaluations, and may have knowledge of client protection or social performance issues—an internal auditor, product development manager, client service representative—but there is no requirement. Mainly, the focal point needs to have the time available to help prepare and support the assessment.

2. Next, you should define a scope of work for the Accredited Assessor you want to contract to help with the assessment. You should refine and adjust the scope of work based on your own needs, expectations and resources.

3. Find an Accredited Assessor. 
The Smart Campaign publishes a list of accredited support and lead assessors on its website. We encourage you to contact several assessors to compare offers.

4. Once you have contracted your Accredited Assessor, the FI focal point and the assessor will work together to prepare the assessment:
setting an agenda, collecting documents and key indicators for the desk review. Next, together, the team will carry out the on-site assessment: hold interviews, review documents, fill in the assessment tool. At the end of the assessment, the Accredited Assessor should give a debrief presentation to management.

5. The Accredited Assessor is responsible for generating the final report with inputs from the FI focal point.

6. At the end of the assessment, the Smart Campaign requests that the financial institution evaluates the Accredited Assessor using the Smart Campaign Assessor Feedback form.

7. Once you have the report, it’s time to focus on implementation.
You can use findings to draw up an action plan that prioritizes the areas to improve, download the tools available for free on the Smart Campaign website, or work with the accredited assessor to develop an “upgrading project”—an action plan for improving one specific area. The ultimate goal of the Accompanied Self-Assessment is to improve practices, so it’s important to have a plan for how to use the results!

Frequently asked questions for MFIs on Accompanied Self-Assessments

What is an Accompanied Self-Assessment?

A self-assessment conducted with the help of an Accredited Assessor. In an Accompanied Self-Assessment, the FI designates someone in the MFI (referred to as a focal point) who forms a team with the Accredited Assessor to carry out the assessment. An Accompanied Self-Assessment allows you to identify your institution’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps prioritize the areas you need to work on most. An Accompanied Self-Assessment can be a first step towards preparing for certification, but it is not the only part of the preparation process! 

Who from the institution should work with the Accredited Assessor?

Anyone from the institution can be the designated focal point. Ideally, the focal point will be familiar with doing evaluations, and may have knowledge of client protection or social performance issues—an internal auditor, product development manager, client service representative—but there is no requirement. Mainly, the focal point needs to have the time available to help prepare and support the assessment.

Do I need an Accredited Assessor to help me conduct an Accompanied Self-Assessment?

Yes. The Smart Campaign recommends you work with an Accredited Assessor to get the highest quality support possible. Accredited assessors have participated in a Smart Campaign assessor training and are updated on the Campaign’s latest developments, like changes to assessment tools or updates to the guidance used to assess the Certification Standards. Working with an Accredited Assessor will ensure MFIs get the most out of the self-assessment process.

Who can conduct an Accompanied Self-Assessment?

Accredited support assessors or accredited lead assessors.

Exceptionally, some support assessors in training—people with strong evaluation experience who have gone through a Smart Assessor Training—can conduct a self assessment.

How do I find an Accredited Assessor?

The Smart Campaign publishes a list of accredited support and lead assessors on our website.

What is the relationship between the Accredited Assessor and the MFI focal point in charge of the self-assessment?

The Accredited Assessor’s job is to help guide the FI focal point through the assessment process: orient him or her on the documents to consult, participate in interviews, analyze data and consolidate findings. The level of the participation of the FI focal point can vary depending on his or her availability and experience. The FI should decide before the assessment what they expect of the Accredited Assessor, and what role the FI focal point will play. This should be specified in the terms of reference.

What does the Accompanied Self-Assessment Report look like?

A 10-15 page report that provides an overview of practices at the principle level, and scoring details for each indicator. Most importantly, it includes a gap analysis—i.e., a list of indicators that need further improvement—with specific recommendations for each one. Wherever possible, recommendations include links to tools on the Smart Campaign website, to help FI start improving practice.

  • Summary table of MFI and peer data (1 pg)
  • One paragraph summary of the findings for each principle (1-2 pg)
  • Graphic results by principle (1 pg)
  • Full scoring table for each indicator (6 pg)
  • Gap analysis that provides recommendations for the indicators that need improvement. (1-5pg)

You should expect to receive the report either at the end of the assessment or at the latest within a week of completing the assessment.

The report is a valuable output that can help you decide where to focus efforts to improve. But remember: while the Accompanied Self-Assessment can be a first step to prepare for Certification, a good score does not guarantee that you will pass Certification. The Smart Assessment methodology is detailed and transparent, but even the most objective methodology cannot replace the interpretation and judgment of the certifier.

Our institution has completed an Accompanied Self-Assessment, can we get Certified?

An Accompanied Self-Assessment can be a first step towards preparing for certification, but it is not the only part of the preparation process. Most assessments reveal some weaknesses, so the first thing to do is work to improve practices. Draw up an action plan that prioritizes the areas to improve, download the tools available for free on the Smart Campaign website, or work with the Accredited Assessor to develop an “upgrading project”—an action plan for improving one specific area.

Remember, doing an Accompanied Self-Assessment or even External Assessment does not guarantee will you pass Certification. The Smart Campaign assessment methodology is detailed and transparent, but even the most objective methodology cannot replace the interpretation and judgment of the certifier.

Does the Smart Campaign review the report?

The Smart Campaign only reviews the reports of support assessors doing their first Accompanied Self-Assessment, to ensure quality control. We do not review reports of experienced support assessors or lead assessors.

We still ask the Accredited Assessor send a copy of the report to the Smart Campaign; all reports are confidential and used purely for benchmarking purposes.

What if I’m not happy with the Accredited Assessor’s work?

We make our best efforts to accredited high quality assessors with assessment and microfinance expertise, but it is possible that the assessor does not perform to your expectations. Your feedback is critical to our quality control process. This is why, after the ASA, the Smart Campaign will send you a feedback form to get your opinion on the assessment process and assessors. Your feedback is considered when we re-evaluate assessors.

If I do an Accompanied Self-Assessment, is my FI’s name published on the Smart Campaign website on the list of Smart-Assessed Institutions?

Your status as an institution that has done an Accompanied Self-Assessments will be publicized in Smart Campaign communications. However, all results are confidential.

How much does an Accompanied Self-Assessment cost?

It depends. A small and young institution may take only 3 days, while a larger institution with highly formalized policies and procedures may take up to 7 days. FIs should feel free to adjust the level of effort for the Accredited Assessor based on available resources. For example, if the FI focal point is able to review documents and start filling in the Smart Assessment tool, this will help reduce the number of days needed for the Accredited Assessor. The idea of the Accompanied Self-Assessment is to give FIs maximum flexibility to structure the assessment process according to their needs.

Please note, the Smart Campaign does not set pricing for Accompanied Self-Assessment. The rates of the Accredited Assessor are a matter of negotiation between the FI and the assessor.

How does an accompanied self-assessment help prepare me for certification?

The accompanied self-assessment is one way to get started on the pathway to certification. Because someone from your MFI works closely with the Accredited Assessor, your institution gains internal capacity that will help implement the recommendations and spread understanding of client protection throughout your institution.



A Smart Assessment is conducted by a Smart Campaign-trained assessor and involves the following steps:

Desk Review

  • Certification analysts work with MFI representative to set interviews with staff, plan branch visits, set up focus group discussions with clients
  • Representative assists analysts with collection of institutions’ key policies and procedures and other documents relevant for certification standards: including but not exclusive to statutes, code of conduct, operations manuals, customer or market surveys, product descriptions, marketing materials, loan/savings contracts, passbooks, training/orientation materials, business plan, financial data, audit or rating reports, etc.
  • Certification analyst will also research the legal framework and the microfinance market of the host country

On-Site Visit

  • Introductory/orientation meetings between certification analysts and MFI management and key personnel
  • In-depth interviews led by analysts with key stakeholders (e.g. management team, staff members, board members)
  • Certification analysts lead focus group interviews with clients
  • Certification analysts conduct observations of daily operations
  • Certification analysts conduct random verification of client files and analyze MIS data 

Post-Visit Analysis and Initial Status Report

    • Certification analysts finalize work comparing MFI’s performance to certification standards
    • Certification analysts run detailed quantitative analysis of pricing and efficiency through peer-group construction and comparison
    • Certification analyst and MFI representative communicate frequently as necessary to verify information and observations
    • Certification analysts prepare output report regarding certification status and share with MFI
    • MFI reviews report – if MFI passes then process is complete, if MFI DOES NOT PASS then move on to Improve Phase (Step 3).

 tool iconTOOL: A Guide to Client Protection Assessments
This Guide describes the client protection assessment options available to financial institutions, walks you through the assessment process, and explains how to use your assessment once it is complete.  

 

Next Step 2