Agent networks play a critical role in increasing financial access by helping financial service providers broaden their reach without building more branches. However, in order for an agent network to successfully extend access to financial services, the client must be able to trust the agent and perform transactions with confidence. Early research by the Helix Institute and others has shown that strong customer service and client protection practices are linked to profitability for both agents and agent network managers.
A wide variety of entities recruit and manage agents: MNOs, service providers, aggregators, banks, microfinance institutions, etc. However, despite the variance in organizational design and services offered, there are common questions and issues with which all agent managers must grapple. Many of these issues have client protection implications. But what does responsible agent management look like in practice? To begin to answer this question, the Smart Campaign, in collaboration with Accion, carried out research in India to map its Client Protection Principles and standards against various agent models to develop a deeper understanding of the client protection risks and effective mitigating steps for agent managers. The resultant paper, Protecting Clients & Building Trust: Exploring responsible agent management in India , presents some of the early findings and the results of a Mumbai workshop where the paper was discussed and recommendations prioritized. The Campaign hopes that this note will generate debate, feedback and guidance for further research and engagement.