NewsWHY IS MICROLOAN MORE THAN JUST A LOAN – EDUCATION AND FINANCIAL LITERACY AS PART OF OUR SERVICE
At the initiative of the European Microfinance Network from Brussels (EMN) and the Microfinance Centre in Warsaw (MFC), October 20th was celebrated as the European Microfinance Day for the second time. Microfinance and microloans are ongoing topics in Serbia, particularly due to their significance in the fight against unemployment, economic as well as social exclusion. At the moment, there is no legal framework regulating the work of microfinance institutions in Serbia, however the government is taking action to change this because of the impact of microfinance on solving problems of disadvantaged and marginalized groups. This is good news since the availability and speed of processing make microloans ideal solution for problems that micro and small entrepreneurs and farmers face every day, as well as private individuals with low or irregular incomes in case of unforeseen or emergency situations.
Data shows that in the last five years in Serbia around 32.000 microloans have been granted in the average amount of EUR 1.409 per loan, however this data is incomplete since it only refers to the three non-banking institutions in Serbia dealing with microfinance. Opportunity Bank is also engaged in microfinance in Serbia and, in the last 5 years alone, it disbursed over 75.000 microloans in the average amount of EUR 2.500 per loan.
Microfinance or “financial inclusion” means providing financial services to citizens with lower income who often do not have access to traditional financial service providers i.e. banks or their access to these institutions is very limited, for example, residents in remote, rural areas. Therefore, Opportunity Bank, with as many as 65% of clients from rural areas of Serbia, is constantly working on improving its services, especially when it comes to technological innovation. The last in the line of innovations is application called “Small Business Loan One Click Away”, which in just few minutes enables the owner of a small business to obtain preliminary response on the availability of the microloan with Opportunity bank, online and without actually leaving the comfort of his home. This is particularly important because it saves time and money of potential clients from remote areas who by using this application avoid going to the bank, as well as in terms of breaking through a psychological barrier of small entrepreneurs who had not previously taken out a loan with banks mainly due to strict criteria and extensive documentation required. This application facilitates the entire process.
The theme of this year’s European Microfinance Day are so-called “Non-Financial Services” or additional services that microfinance institutions and banks provide to their clients in order to increase their chances of successful business operations and improve their standard of living. Since client education is an important part of Opportunity Bank mission, during 2016 the Bank has organized six seminars for clients on ways of financing agricultural production and is already planning additional educational activities, particularly on the importance of savings. The Bank also participated in the 2015 “Wise Borrowing” campaign initiated across Europe by the Microfinance Centre in Warsaw.