Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Commercial Banks and Microfinance

Delfiner, Miguel and Peron, Silvana (2007): Commercial Banks and Microfinance. Published in:

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Abstract

The term “microfinance” (MF) refers to the provision of banking services to lower-income people, especially the poor. In the history of MF, microfinance institutions (MFIs)1 have been the first to identify the large unserved demand for microcredit in developing countries, develop methodologies for delivering and recovering small loans, and begin credit programs for the poor. Given their nature, though, MFIs can normally meet only a fraction of the demand for microloans in their service areas. Commercial banks have begun to see MF as a potentially profitable business and are starting to venture into this field. This approach to MF (known as “downscaling") is different from that of “upgrading” or transforming MFIs into regulated institutions. Evidence is currently showing that financial institutions can profitably attend MF needs on a massive scale. This paper aims at exploring the main aspects and future outlook in connection with commercial banks provision of MF services. A review is made of the incentives and disincentives for financial institutions to venture into the MF sector, and their specific advantages and disadvantages when competing in this market. A classification of the main operating models currently adopted by banks for entering the MF market is established as well as an analysis of the local regulations that could potentially apply to each of these models.

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