Citi Foundation Supports MFTransparency with Grant
October 28, 2009 – The Citi Foundation today expressed its commitment to fair and transparent pricing in microfinance with a grant to MicroFinance Transparency (MFTransparency), the industry leader in collecting and publishing complete and comparable data on the interest rates and fees charged to microfinance clients.
MFTransparency is a global initiative for fair and transparent pricing in the microfinance industry. In each country included in the Global Transparent Pricing Initiative, MFTransparency collects data on the interest and fees charged on each microfinance loan product in order to calculate the accurate, true price (Effective Interest Rate) on those loans. MFTransparency then posts that data along with educational materials for the public on its website (www.mftransparency.org). The group hopes to establish the industry standard for pricing disclosure, and believes collecting, calculating, and presenting information on credit products and their prices in a clear and consistent fashion will facilitate a fair exchange between suppliers and consumers of microcredit products.
The Citi Foundation has actively supported microfinance for 25 years since the movement’s inception. In the last decade, Citi granted over $70 million in support of 350 microfinance programs in 57 countries. Citi staff also contribute their financial expertise through technical assistance to Citi’s partners.
Bob Annibale, Citi’s Global Director for Microfinance, said, “Transparent and consistent pricing ensures that clients can compare the effective interest rate of lending products across institutions while donors, investors and analysts can better assess lending institutions from a financial and social perspective. MicroFinance Transparency is playing a lead role in addressing this challenge by providing the financial education, institutional training and tools to make this information widely available. This will yield positive results for microfinance clients and enhance the transparency of the industry.”
Chuck Waterfield, Founder and CEO of MFTransparency, expressed appreciation for Citi’s assistance. “Having the support of a global financial institution like Citi is a huge boost to our efforts to make transparent pricing an industry norm in microfinance,” said Waterfield.
MFTransparency plans to use the grant to increase its industry presence and visibility, secure additional long term funding, and progress towards its near and long term goals. In the long term, the group has the ambitious goal of covering 5,000 MFI’s in over 75 countries. In order to further the group’s work of providing information and education to microfinance stakeholders, the group hopes to expand operations and increase their educational and promotional efforts in 2010. Over the next year MFTransparency plans to expand its data collection and dissemination to include as many as 20 more countries around the world, and develop and distribute a broad range of educational materials related to interest rates and pricing that will be targeted to various microfinance industry stakeholder groups. These materials will be delivered via multiple channels including Internet, video-casts, seminars and workshops, manuals and software tools.
MFTransparency recently reached a milestone when it began a phased rollout of loan product data from their initial data collection efforts starting October 19. The first country’s data to be released was Bosnia and Herzegovina, which featured 100% coverage of the local AMFI network. Data on Cambodian loan products was released October 26, with Peru Country Data and a public webinar on the 3 countries’ data to follow.
More recently, MFTransparency has begun the data collection process for Azerbaijan and Kenya, as well as consulted for regulatory authorities in Bangladesh. The group’s efforts have thus far been met with cooperation and encouragement from industry colleagues. In the counties covered so far, all participating microfinance practitioners have voluntarily contributed their pricing data to MFTransparency’s Global Transparent Pricing Initiative.
The need for an initiative in transparent pricing has arisen in recent years as microfinance drew negative media attention for charging allegedly excessive interest rates and the use of confusing product pricing. MFTransparency has pointed out, “a quoted interest rate of 3% per month can result in an APR between 36% and 96% and beyond.”  MFTransparency hopes to establish an industry standard for cost calculation that will allow for easier product comparison.
MFTransparency recently wrote, “Microfinance has long been highly transparent in some areas but, due to the complications of the market conditions and lack of regulation, the true price of our loan products has never accurately been measured or reported. For this reason, MFTransparency believes that there is a need to provide information on credit products and their prices in a clear and consistent fashion. At the same time, we will work to educate all stakeholders on the true costs of lending to the poorest in order to make sure that they have access to the financial services they need.”
MicroFinance Transparency is an international non-governmental organization founded in 2008 with the purpose of facilitating transparent markets through the dissemination of true cost information to all market stakeholders. MFTransparency represents an industry movement toward fair practices and responsibility. Based in the United States, the group has organized transparent pricing efforts in Bosnia, Peru, Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Kenya and Bangladesh. For more information please visit (www.mftransparency.org). Grameen Bank’s Dr. Mohammad Yunus and Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO of CGAP, as well as more than 200 industry professionals and organizations have committed to transparent pricing by endorsing MFTransparency and its initiative. For information on MFTransparency staff, please see Who We Are.
About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving on its priority focus areas: Microfinance and Microenterprise, Small and Growing Businesses, Education, and Financial Education and Asset Building. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance and Microenterprise and Small and Growing Businesses to support environmental programmes and innovations. Additional information can be found at citifoundation.com
Citi, the leading global financial services company, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 140 countries. Through Citicorp and Citi Holdings, Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com or www.citi.com.
For questions relating to this press release please contact:
1. MicroFinance Transparency. “The Need for Transparent Product Pricing.” 2009.