Pakistan’s Client Voice research includes the voices of roughly 1,000 current and former microfinance clients to identify consumer protection challenges in the country. The Smart Campaign selected Pakistan as the market in Asia for the Client Voices project for several reasons. Notably, a priority objective of this research is to catalyze industry discussion, which requires strong and engaged local partners. The Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) has long-demonstrated its leadership and commitment to client protection among its members and was a natural partner for this exercise.
Top concerns among microfinance clients in Pakistan are transparency, fair and respectful treatment of clients, and mechanisms for resolving complaints.
Between March and October 2014, Bankable Frontier Associates conducted qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative portion included individual interviews as well as participants taking photographs that represented their positive and negative experiences with microfinance. On the quantitative end, over 900 clients and 100 former clients participated in a survey expressing any concerns related to microfinance practices.
The research confirms Pakistan’s advanced consumer protection ecosystem while underlining the issues that persist. Key client protection risks emerged around the issues of harsh treatment of clients, inflexibility in the case of late repayment, and unclear terms and conditions. Unlike other markets, the regulatory environment for the microfinance industry is well-developed in Pakistan with the Credit Information Bureau (MF-CIB) exclusively monitoring activity.
Building on the country’s strong regulatory environment and addressing these client protection concerns requires a market-level approach that takes into consideration the unique role that regulators, local partners, microfinance institutions, networks, and clients themselves each must play.