4. Demonstrate

To become certified, financial institutions will be evaluated through a desk review and an on-site due diligence process that will include staff and client interviews. Financial institutions that wish to become Smart Certified must apply to one of the licensed certifiers.

Step one, the desk review, involves sharing of key documents with the certification team.

Step two, the field visit, will be scheduled only when required data have been submitted and the team judges the organization to be a strong candidate to pass certification. Certifications can be carried out as stand-alone visits, or in conjunction with financial, institutional, or social ratings. The Campaign encourages combining certifications with ratings; it will be much more cost effective than seeking a rating and certification separately.

Organizations meeting all the certification standards will be able to advertise themselves as certified and will be listed on the Smart Campaign website. Organizations not passing will be kept confidential, and, if desired, the Campaign will advise them on steps to improve their practices.

If certified, what should I expect?

If your institution is certified, it means that the institution implements adequate standards of care and is on the path to be internationally recognized as an industry leader. Results of the certification will be public for financial institutions that pass certification. Financial institutions can use the certification results to market their organization as a pro-client institution to their investors, clients, funders, regulators, the media, and the general public. Organizations meeting all the certification standards will be able to advertise themselves as certified and will be listed on the Smart Campaign website.

What happens if my institution does not pass all the standards?

Results of the certification will be public for financial institutions that pass certification. Financial institutions that do not pass certification will share the results only at their discretion. This is in keeping with the intent of the certification program to incentivize improved practices. Organizations not passing will be kept confidential, and, if desired, the Campaign will advise them on steps to improve their practices.

During the certification visit, the certification body (CB) will determine whether the financial institution (FI) conforms to the client protection standards. In the case of non-conformities, there are three possible paths.

  1. Enter the Progress Phase. In this phase the FI will have a four month window to put in place corrective measures to meet the standards, using a certification report that identifies the deficiencies. Certification will be announced when these measures are complete.
  2. Streamlined Certification. If an FI passes the great majority of the indicators and, in the opinion of the certification body and the FI, has strong prospects to meet all the indicators within four months, it can receive certification soon after the mission. The FI will then have four months to comply fully. If this does not occur within the agreed time frame, certification will be withdrawn.
  3. Longer term corrective actions with new certification mission. Certification bodies may recommend to institutions with a large number of gaps, to opt-out of the progress phase and put into place longer term corrective actions.  In this case, they will be allowed to re-apply for a Certification mission with the same licensed certifier within any timeframe.  If the institution that has not passed certification wishes to re-apply with another licensed certifier, they must wait approximately four months.

Licensed certifiers

To date, the Smart Campaign has licensed several specialized microfinance rating agencies as certifiers, based on their extensive experience in analyzing MFI client protection practices. In order to make certification more accessible globally, and to maintain the quality of the certification process, the Campaign is developing a new accreditation system that will allow the consideration of new certifiers. The Campaign expects newly accredited certifiers to be on-stream by the end of 2016. If you are an organization interested in becoming a licensed certifier, please contact Alexandra Rizzi This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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Terms and Pricing

 N.B. The Smart Campaign does not set pricing for the Client Protection Certification Program.  This table represents aggregated information from the four certifiers from the first six months of the certification program’s operations.

Terms-Pricing  seal new

 

Below is a table that details the average total cost of certification per region.

cert pricing

 
Pricing for certification missions takes into account activities that can be divided into four core phases a) Preparation b) On-Site Visit and c) Post Visit Analysis and the optional d) Progress Phase. 

During the preparation phase the analysts plan the on-site visit, set interviews as well as plan for branch visits and focus group discussions with the clients. Analysts require a point-person at the financial institution (FI) to help in such planning. In addition during the planning phase, the analysts conduct a desk review of 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. During this period the analyst will also research the legal framework and the microfinance market of the host country. The preparation is typically 2-4 days of work per analyst for two analysts.  

During the On-Site visit, the analysts conduct introductory/orientation meetings with management and staff and then begin to analyze the FI’s practices against the certification standards of care. This will entail in-depth interviews with key stakeholders (e.g. management team, staff members, board members), focus group interviews with clients, observations of daily operations, random verification of client files, analysis of MIS data etc. The on-site visit typically takes at least four days of work per analyst for two analysts, and for larger FIs between five and six days. Pricing for certification also takes into account the time and expenses for analysts to travel to and from the FI.

During the post-visit analysis the analysts finalize their work comparing the FI’s performance against the certification standards; this also entails more detailed quantitative analysis of pricing and efficiency through peer-group construction and comparison. During this period the certifier communicates as frequently as necessary with the FI to verify information and observations made during the desk review and on-site visit. At the end of this phase, the analysts will prepare and share with the FI an output report that conveys the FI’s certification status, namely whether they have passed immediately or will need to fix several things. The work for this phase is typically spread out over several weeks but typically 4 to 5 days per analyst for two analysts and at least one day of review by a manager before submission. The FI will receive a formal status report on whether or not they have passed certification no later than 2 months after the On-Site visit is completed.  

During the certification visit, the certification body (CB) will determine whether the financial institution (FI) conforms to the client protection standards. In the case of non-conformities, there are three possible paths:

  1. Enter the Progress Phase. In this phase the FI will have a four month window to put in place corrective measures to meet the standards, using a certification report that identifies the deficiencies. Certification will be announced when these measures are complete. This review is done remotely and typically takes 1.5-2 days of effort for one analyst. If the verification entails an additional on-site visit, there will be additional costs.
  2. Streamlined Certification. If an FI passes the great majority of the indicators and, in the opinion of the certification body and the FI, has strong prospects to meet all the indicators within four months, it can receive certification soon after the mission. The FI will then have four months to comply fully. If this does not occur within the agreed time frame, certification will be withdrawn. In this scenario the aforementioned assumption of 1.5-2 days of effort and additional field costs for one analyst would still apply.
  3. Longer term corrective actions with new certification mission. Certification bodies may recommend to institutions with a large number of gaps, to opt-out of the progress phase and put into place longer term corrective actions. In this case, they will be allowed to re-apply for a Certification mission with the same licensed certifier within any timeframe. If the institution that has not passed certification wishes to re-apply with another licensed certifier, they must wait approximately four months. In this scenario there would be no additional LOE.