Microfinance and development: how to stimulate change

17 January 2019 // Julia Ortega
Fundación Microfinanzas BBVA

“Women’s enterprises grow faster than those of men, and they invest what they earn in their children,” said the head of Women’s Empowerment for BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF), Laura Fernández Lord, during the round table “Women and young people in Iberoamerica’s development and entrepreneurship politics”, held in the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) headquarters.

According to SEGIB’s Entrepreneurship Director, Esteban Guillermo Campero, “Latin America is a region with many entrepreneurs but little innovation.” That is why, he argued, the challenge lies in creating better companies, enterprises led by opportunity rather than need. The BBVA Microfinance Foundation is working on this task, to make the microenterprises of its entrepreneurs more productive. “We need to accompany them so they can identify new lines of action and open up their access to networks, since this increases their likelihood of success,” explained Fernández Lord.

We need to mentor them so that they can identify new lines of action and open up their access to networks, since this increases their likelihood of success”

At  the round table, which was part of the III Conference on Investment Security in Iberoamerica, hosted by the Consejo General del Notariado, the Secretary of State for International Cooperation & for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, and SEGIB, the speakers were: Ana Bujaldón Solana, the  president of the Spanish Federation of Women Directors, Executives, Professionals & Business Owners (FEDEPE); Alejandra Sáenz, subsecretary, Institutional Relations department, of the International Youth for Iberoamerica  (OIJ); Juan Claudio Abelló Gamazo,  president of the Advanced Enterprise Institute, and Francisco Blanco Jiménez, director of the URJC’s Companies Incubator Network.

Laura Fernández Lord, FMBBVA, en las III Jornadas Seguridad de las Inversiones en Iberoamérica

Laura Fernández Lord, head of Women’s Empowerment for BBVAMF at the III Conference on Investment Security in Iberoamerica

During the conference, microfinance has been considered as a key component for the region’s progress. At another round table, “Microfinance and development in Iberoamerica”, Fernando Jiménez Ontivero, from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) explained the changes that have taken place over the last 20 years: “We have moved on from the simple microloan to a broader model linked to financial inclusion.” 

Nowadays, 45% of the adult population in Latin America still does not have a bank account. This rate of financial exclusion rises when we look only at women (48%) or young people (60%). That is why, noted Jiménez Ontiveros, there are a number of challenges facing continued progress: not only disincentivizing people from opening accounts, but also from using them. “We have to innovate in our products, bring technology closer to remote, excluded populations and improve regulation, while promoting financial stability.” As he said, “Spain can play a pivotal part in the region’s development and BBVA Microfinance Foundation is an excellent example of that”.

Spain can play a pivotal role in the region’s development and BBVA Microfinance Foundation is an excellent example of that”

Giovanni di Plácido, BBVAMF’s Studies & Analysis Director, also spoke at the conference, pointing out that the Foundation’s six institutions, with a footprint covering 5 countries in the region, carry out 5,000 transactions a day. He stressed the important role of saving as “a very important conduit for financial inclusion.”

Rafael Hoyuela and David Tuesta, from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Development Bank – CAF, respectively, also intervened. The Foundation works closely with both multilateral bodies to place its experience at the service of the sector and help accelerate the region’s progress.

Di Plácido emphasized the importance of the financial system to be always “affordable, timely and appropriate”, and explained the factors that differentiate the Foundation’s methodology – Productive Finance – based on financing small entrepreneurs. “By supporting their small businesses, we are making it easier for them to grow more, thanks to the net incomes they generate.” Particularly when the support reaches remote areas and/or women, who tend to suffer more from exclusion.

Giovanni di Plácido, FMBBVA, en las III Jornadas Seguridad de las Inversiones en Iberoamérica

Giovanni di Plácido, director of Analysis and Research for BBVAMF in the III Conference on Investment Security in Iberoamerica

Ana Bujaldón Solana, the President of FEDEPE, reminded attendees at the Conference that que “we cannot take a step backwards, even if it’s to take momentum,” and that is one of the characteristics of the more than two million people served by the Foundation: their determination to get ahead, however high the barriers and however numerous the obstacles.