Digital innovation often concentrates on the client experience. At Microcred it is also in-house and we develop tools to strengthen our internal capacities and performance.

In June 2015, Microcred Group deployed a mobile application, called Baobab Portfolio, for portfolio managers (PMs) in its subsidiaries in Africa. After over 1 year, the app is being used in 7 countries by over 1,000 portfolio managers. Our portfolio managers are highly mobile agents who spend the majority of their time in the field and record everything on paper: for each loan request, it takes an average of 4 hours to travel between the place of business or residence of the client and their guarantor. With the mobile application they are now able to consult advanced data on each of their clients in real time, analyze and anticipate “risky” clients and update basic information while they are in the field. The app provides the PM an overview of their portfolio  and includes a contact   database so that they can call their clients directly from the app.

 

In January 2016, my colleague, Louis Bidou posted an article explaining how Microcred’s new mobile application for portfolio managers impacts their daily activities. Microcred’s process is to innovate, develop, pilot, test and prove all new products and services. After over a year of use, we wanted to more deeply analyze the impact of the app on the portfolio manager’s daily work in order to understand if there was a real change in performance. Together with Microcred’s Data Analytics team, we decided to focus the analysis on Microcred Senegal where the pool of frequent app users is large.

 

The analysis

The study was conducted with a group of 195 portfolio managers. Our goal was to understand the impact on two key performance indicators that are important for the institution and the PM:

– the number of loan disbursements and

– portfolio at risk (PAR).

 

We started with a simple observation: the PMs that use the application the most are also the best performing PMs in terms of their portfolio size. The next step was to confirm that their performance was a direct result of the use of the app. To do this we created 4 groups of portfolio managers:

 

 

Group A1: PMs who were high performers in the 6 months before the deployment of the mobile application and who frequently used the application after deployment,

Group A2: high performers and moderate app users,

Group B1: low performers but frequent app users,

Group B2: low performers and moderate app users.

The results

When we looked at the data for each group from 6 months before and 6 months after the use of the mobile app, it looked as if productivity improved for all groups after the app was introduced. Looking more closely, we found that frequent usage of the app had a statistically significant impact on the performance of portfolio managers in groups A1 and B1 with respect to the average loan disbursements by all PMs. Following are the key findings after 6 months of using the app:

 

● The number of loans disbursed increased. For group A1 (high performers/frequent users) loan disbursements increased after  the usage of the app to 27% from 20% before the app.

  • Portfolio risk decreased. Group B1 (low performers/frequent users) improved their PAR relative to the average PAR for all PMs. Before the application was deployed their PAR relative to the average was -1.20% and after it was -23.9%.

The analysis shows that frequent usage of Baobab Portfolio has positive impacts on performance and reducing risk. We conducted follow up interviews with PMs to see if the data also translated to the user experience, and the discussions we had reinforce the results. Many PMs reflected that they saved time, their efficiency improved and they were better able to manage their portfolio at risk.

 

One PM, Kadhim from the Louga branch commented, “With the application there is no longer a need to obtain an account statement to check the client’s behavior. We have the number of months paid and the number of days that the client is late for each month.” Abdou from the Mbacke branch stated, “It just allows me to save time, automatically checking the behavior of customers to renew [their loan] and make a decision.” An important part of the portfolio manager’s work is managing their clients at risk. Sylvain from the Fass branch in Dakar explained that the application supports them, “by giving us the amount the client has to pay but also by informing us about the customers to monitor.”

 

The app also contributes to an improvement in the quality of customer service. PMs are more easily able to make informed and quick decisions about renewing loans and provide real time information to clients about their account balance, outstanding loan balance, total to reimburse and other important information.

 

Aissa from the Thies branch stated, “I call my clients even outside of business hours thanks to the application. It allows us to do our work at any time.” In terms of performance, the PMs themselves noticed that the app encourages them in their work: “It helps us to simply and easily check our performance on a daily basis. It motivates us, in my opinion;” reflected Assane from the Thies branch.

 

Next steps

Now that we have proof that the mobile application is a valuable tool, there are some key next steps to take to ensure its successful adoption and use in all of Microcred’s subsidiaries. So the question is, how can Microcred motivate and encourage frequent usage of the mobile app in all countries by all portfolio managers?

 

● One fundamental step is to ensure that all portfolio managers have working smartphones (no small feat for a force of over 1,400 portfolio managers in 10 countries).

 

●  It is also important to identify champions of the mobile app in order to motivate all portfolio managers to use the app.

 

● As with all new technology, it is key to have a support network for training and troubleshooting any technology problems or usage issues that staff might have.

 

In parallel, the Innovation and Technology team is working on expanding the functionality of the app in 2017 to enable PMs to add documents to their client’s profile for loan evaluation, submit loan applications directly from the field, and track client visits and updates throughout the loan cycle.

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