European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision

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1 EN European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Version 1.0

2 Source of photos : istockphoto European Union, 2011 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. ISBN doi: /41012 European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional Policy Unit B.1 Communication, Information, Relations with Third Countries Raphaël Goulet Avenue de Tervuren 41, 1040 Brussels BELGIUM Fax : Internet :

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4 Foreword The European microfinance market is a young and growing sector which has considerable potential. However, this market is still quite heterogeneous, due to the disparity of the legal and institutional frameworks in the Member States and the diversity of the microcredit providers. In the EU, microloans are provided by financial institutions, such as commercial banks, savings banks, cooperative banks and public banks, as well as by a number of non-bank entities, such as microfinance institutions, foundations, credit unions, charities, NGOs and others. As a result, microcredit lending practice vary considerably depending on the type of institution providing microloans, its legal setup, the environment in which it operates and its own ability to apply sound and efficient management procedures. Under these circumstances, the design of a widely accepted voluntary European Code of Good Conduct for microcredit provision was identified by the Commission as an important part of its initiative 1 to promote best practices in the field of microcredit. By setting out good practice guidelines and identifying expectations and common standards, the Commission is seeking to support the sector in facing the challenges of accessing longterm finance, maintaining and raising the quality of services and moving towards sustainability. The principles regarding governance and management presented in this document are generally not new, but they reflect best practices across the sector. The purpose of this document is to detail a set of approved standards recognised in the European Union as essential in terms of the operation and reporting of microcredit providers. The work to develop this European Code of Good Conduct has been carried out 2 in close consultation with many actors and stakeholders from the microfinance sector, such as funders, investors, customers, owners, regulators and partner organisations. It drew on the expertise and valuable experience gained by many microfinance actors in the EU, in particular the trade associations the European Microfinance Network (EMN), Microfinance Centre (MFC) and Community Development Finance Association (CDFA). It is our hope that the European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision will contribute to enhancing good practice and further improving governance and sound management in the microfinance sector in the European Union. Dirk Ahner, Director-General Directorate-General for Regional Policy European Commission Heinz Zourek, Director-General Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry European Commission 1 Communication "A European initiative for the development of microcredit in support of growth and employment" (COM(2007) 708 final/2 of ) 2 The European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision was prepared by Dr Karl Dayson and Pål Vik of Community Finance Solutions, University of Salford (UK) under a contract signed with the European Commission 4

5 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Acknowledgement The organisations listed below in alphabetical order have contributed to the development of the European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision : Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions Network of European Credit Unions Association pour le Droit à l Initiative Economique, (ADIE) Banca Etica Bundesverband Offentlicher Banken Deutschlands Centre for European Research in Microfinance (CERMi) Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) CoopEst Deutsche Sparkassen- und Giroverband (DSGV) Deutsches Mikrofinanz Institut (DMI) Eurom Consultancy & Studies European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) European Association of Public Banks (EAPB) European Banking Federation (EBF) European Investment Fund (EIF) European Microfinance Network (EMN) European Network of Credit Unions European Savings Banks Group (ESBG) Evers & Jung Express Finance IFN SA Fair Finance Fédération Nationale des Caisses d'epargne Finance Policy Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), SME Finance Team Good.Bee Holding Groupe Banques Populaires Caisses d'epargne (BPCE) Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) Luxflag MicroBank Microfinance Centre for Central Europe and New Independent States (MFC) MicroFinanza Rating NRW.Bank Planet Rating Qredits The Financial Services Authority (FSA) Wirtschaftskammer Oberösterreich (WKÖ) Many other participants were involved in the process through questionnaires 5

6 Table of contents About the Code of Good Conduct How was the Code developed? Why a Code of Good Conduct for microcredit providers in the EU? Which institutions are covered by the Code of Good Conduct? Who are the intended audience of the Code of Good Conduct? How should this document be used? Customer and Investor Relations Introduction Customer relations Sufficient information provided to customer Customer rights Avoiding over-indebtedness of customers Customer care Ethical staff and institutional behaviour Customer data protection Investor relations Governance Introduction Development of a business plan Board Independence of board Responsibilities of board Influence of board on microcredit provider Selection and representation of board members Board practical work organisation Management Management expertise and human resource management Operational manuals External audit

7 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision 3 Risk Management Introduction Risk management framework Management of credit risk Planning of portfolio quality Management of fraud and security risk Internal audit function Reporting Standards Introduction Common financial reporting standards Common social reporting standards Common disclosure standards Management Information Systems Introduction Functional completeness and expandability Security and staff support Glossary

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9 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision About the Code of Good Conduct 9

10 About the Code of Good Conduct The European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision provides a set of standards in terms of management, governance, risk management, reporting, and consumer and investor relations that are common to the microcredit sector in the European Union. These standards are for the benefit of customers, investors, funders, owners, regulators and partner organisations. How was the Code developed? The Code has been built on recognised best practice in the microfinance sector and developed in close consultation with the microcredit sector in the EU and its stakeholders. The development of the Code of Good Conduct has been guided by the following principles : An emphasis on incorporating specific and measurable content, on the basis of which microcredit provider managers and boards can take action to enhance their organisations. An emphasis on developing a Code that is adjusted to the diversity of microcredit providers in the EU in terms of market conditions, institutional forms and legal frameworks. An emphasis on raising standards by balancing the need for introducing best practice with realistic operational expectations of the providers. Why a Code of Good Conduct for microcredit providers in the EU? The development of the Code was based on the recognition that in light of the disparate regulatory frameworks in which microcredit providers in the EU operate there was a need for a unifying set of expectations and standards that was common to the sector. The goal is to benefit the sector itself as well as its funders, investors, customers, owners, regulators and partner organisations. The Code sets out good practice guidelines that will better enable the sector to face the challenges of accessing long-term finance, maintaining and raising the quality of services, and moving towards sustainability. Which institutions are covered by the Code of Good Conduct? The Code of Good Conduct is primarily designed to cover non-bank microcredit providers which provide loans of up to to micro-entrepreneurs. However, the microcredit sector in the EU is diverse in terms of size, institutional set-up and the markets in which they operate. Consequently, not all practices can be considered good practice or even possible for all microcredit providers. In some cases, regulations may already exist which cover certain domains and practices. The Code recognises this and, where applicable, it specifies the type of institutions not covered by the clause in question. Who are the intended audience of the Code of Good Conduct? This Code of Good Conduct is intended for microcredit provider managers, directors, customers, investors, funders, owners, regulators and partner organisations. It is designed to be a tool for microcredit provider board members, stakeholders and managers in improving the operation of the sector. For customers, it is a tool to ensure that they are treated in a fair and ethical way. For investors and funders, it ensures that the sector operates with transparent and pan- EU reporting standards. For regulators, it gives some reassurance that the sector operates according to sound business practices and principles, and that it is well governed. The purpose of the Code is not to introduce or replace existing regulations of microcredit providers. Rather it is intended to detail a set of common standards in terms of the operation and reporting of microcredit providers. 10

11 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision How should this document be used? The Code is divided into five sections : Customer and investor relations : This section covers obligations of microcredit providers towards customers and investors, and rights of customers and investors. Governance : This section covers standards for both management and the board of microcredit providers. Risk management : This section details common approaches and procedure for managing risk. Reporting standards : This section details which indicators microcredit providers must collect, report and disclose. Management information systems : This section details common standards for management information systems. Priority clauses Throughout the document, several clauses have been identified as priority clauses. These clauses are seen as particularly important and are presented as illustrated below. Clause 1.2 Microcredit providers will disclose the cost as an Annual Percentage Rate of Charge The Annual Percentage Rate of Charge must be disclosed in a credit agreement and in any advertising. This refers to the annual value of all commitments, drawdowns, repayments and charges, including fees and taxes paid by the customer and known to the creditor. The clauses are presented as illustrated below : Clause 1.1 For loans of duration of 12 months or longer, microcredit providers will provide clear and accurate information to their customers about their loan in an annual statement. The annual statement must include the amount paid (interest and principal), the balance left (interest and principal) and the structure of the remaining payments (timing, amounts, interest and principal). The annual statement may be transmitted electronically, on paper or face-to-face. The clauses themselves are underlined and where there is further guidance this is found below the clause. Level of difficulty / / The level of difficulty in implementing a clause is indicated by (low difficulty), (medium difficulty) and (high difficulty) Large institutions only Where a clause only applies to large institutions, this is indicated by the symbol, displayed after the clause. Large institutions are here defined as providers that have more than active borrowers 3 and more than 70 employees. In the further guidance to the clauses, references are also made to small and medium providers. Small providers refer to organisations with fewer than customers and 35 employees, while medium providers have to customers and 35 to 70 employees. All the clauses are summarised in a matrix at the beginning of the document. In the matrix, the priority clauses are in bold red font. A glossary also explains some of the terms used. 3 Active borrowers are individuals who currently have an outstanding loan balance with the microcredit provider or are primarily responsible for repaying any portion of the gross loan portfolio. Borrowers with multiple loans should be counted as a single borrower. 11

12 About the Code of Good Conduct Overview matrix Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page I. Customer and investor relations Sufficient information to customer Microcredit providers will Disclose costs in advertising Disclose costs as Annual Percentage Rate Provide pre-contractual information to customer Provide clear information in annual loan statement Take measures to ensure customers understand terms and process 22 Customer rights Customers have the right to Withdraw from credit agreement or repay within 14 days Enough time to review terms of contract and ask questions Early repayment Have credit history reported to national credit bureaux 23 Avoiding over-indebtedness of customers Microcredit providers will Assess repayment capacity and loan affordability Have credit policies addressing borrower debt thresholds Inform borrower without delay of non- or under-payment 23 Customer care Microcredit providers will Regularly assess customer satisfaction Have policy requiring that complaints be investigated 24 12

13 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page 1.15 Have mechanism to deal with customer complaints Ensure customers are informed of right to complain 24 Ethical staff and institutional behaviour Microcredit providers will Not discriminate in selection and treatment of customers Set out acceptable and unacceptable debt-collection practices Have explicit policy on acceptable pledges of collateral Conduct regular staff appraisals 25 Customer data protection Microcredit providers will Have written privacy policy concerning customer data Have systems to protect customers personal and financial information 1.23 Train staff to protect customers personal and financial information Inform customers about use of information and rights to withdraw permission 1.25 Require written customer consent to publicly disclose information Investor relations Microcredit providers will Take responsibility not to mislead investors Provide relevant information to enable investors to make informed decisions 1.28 Endeavour to target investors equipped to understand risk Take steps to verify investors identity to prevent money laundering II. Governance Business planning Microcredit providers will Produce a business plan that is reviewed regularly Produce a business plan covering a minimum of 3-5 years 28 13

14 About the Code of Good Conduct Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page 2.3 Ensure that the business plan covers a minimum number of aspects of business 2.4 Measure, disclose and improve financial and social performance Use management control and performance tools Board 2.6 Microcredit providers will have a board of directors or equivalent 2.7 The board will have an audit or supervisory committee The audit or supervisory committee will Be independent of management Meet with external auditors on annual basis Have expertise in financial analysis and accounting 29 The board will Have a minimum number of members Be composed of a majority of independent board members Be selected by Annual General Meeting or equivalent body Be reviewed by Annual General Meeting or equivalent body Supervise the performance of the senior management Be accountable for compliance with laws and regulations Review whether provider is carrying out the mission and business plan 2.18 Monitor financial performance on a regular basis Be represented on interview panel when hiring chief executive Have the right to veto executive management appointments Decide level of remuneration for executive management posts Approve any changes in pricing policies Be given portfolio quality and financial performance reports Have members with understanding of banking and finance Have members that will develop understanding of credit risk

15 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page Microcredit providers will Have rules excluding improper persons from becoming board members 2.27 Have rules stipulating term limits and rotation Require disclosure of conflicts of interest of board members Have board members with qualifications in finance, business, management and law 2.30 Be able to remove board members not attending meetings without valid reason The board will Meet at least four times a year 31 Microcredit providers will Have quorum preventing staff or management majority on board Disclose proportion of related-party lending in annual report 32 Management 2.34 Management will be qualified to undertake key management functions 32 Microcredit providers will Have succession plan for executive management Have personnel policies set out in personnel manuals Have a formal training and induction programme Have operational manuals covering financial operations and management 2.39 Have operational manuals covering treasury External audit 2.40 Microcredit providers will have external audit on annual basis Auditor will be appropriately qualified External audit will adhere to national or international accounting standards 2.43 External audit will be accompanied by letter from auditor Microcredit provider will address issues raised by auditor

16 About the Code of Good Conduct Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page III. Risk management Risk management framework Microcredit providers will Have processes to identify, assess and prioritise risks Appoint senior manager to be accountable for risk management 3.3 Assign responsibility for implementing risk controls Assign responsibility for monitoring and providing management with relevant data 36 Managing credit risk Microcredit providers will Take into account risk when designing loan products Limit credit risks by requiring that two people approve all loans 3.7 Review aggregate exposure to concentrations of credit risk Ensure any staff incentives are not linked only to loan origination Measure and track loan portfolio performance Revise loan loss provisioning rates and methodology regularly Disclose loan loss provisioning methodology to funders and investors 3.12 Have explicit policy on write-offs and apply it consistently Managing fraud and security risk Microcredit providers will Specify lending limits for various ranks of officers and credit committees 3.14 Have procedures for rescheduling loans Have policies and procedures on dealing with collateral Have policies classifying restricted and unrestricted fund account activity 3.17 Limit handling of cash through banks or using electronic transfers Have the following measures in place when handling cash Sufficient security measures to protect cash and assets Standardised and consistent procedures for cash transactions

17 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page Segregation of duties for handling and recording cash transactions 3.19 Segregate duties for approving and disbursing loans Internal audit 3.20 Microcredit providers will have explicit internal audit function adjusted to size of organisation 3.21 Internal auditor will report directly to board Internal audit will determine : The reliability of existing information The reliability and accuracy of financial and operational information Violations of internal controls Existence of uncontrolled risks Internal audit will be conducted regularly IV. Reporting standards Common financial reporting standards Microcredit providers will Adhere to common way of measuring and reporting : Current loan portfolio Gross loan portfolio Net loan portfolio Active borrowers Financial revenue Operating revenue Personnel expense Administrative expense Financial expense Portfolio at Risk Write-offs Impairment loss allowance and provision expense Assets Liabilities 45 17

18 About the Code of Good Conduct Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page Operational sustainability ratio Financial sustainability ratio Adjustments to sustainability ratios taking into account subsidies 46 Common social reporting standards Microcredit providers will Publicly disclose Social mission Average disbursed loan size Median loan size as % of gross national income 46 if relevant for target market and mission % of female customers % of rural customers % of poor customers % of customers graduating to mainstream finance % of ethnic minority or indigenous customers % of start-up businesses funded % of customers on welfare benefits 46 Common disclosure standards 4.3 Members of public will be able to access information 47 Microcredit providers will Publicly disclose Number of active borrowers Number and value of loans issued and outstanding Value of current, gross and net portfolio Portfolio at Risk Total value of assets and liabilities Operational sustainability ratio Financial sustainability ratio % of cost per loan subsidised Number of loan officers and (total) personnel 47 18

19 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision Clause number Clause Priority Difficulty Large Only Page 4.5 Record complaints by applicants and past and current customers Publicly disclose Number of complaints by applicants and past and current customers Complaints as % of applicants and past and current customers V. Management information systems Functional completeness and expandability Microcredit providers will have an MIS that Produces key operational and financial reports Income statement Balance sheet Daily loan and delinquency report, ratios and trends Enables provider to perform full range accounting activities Operates in accordance with recognised accounting standards Can monitor and manage loan portfolio quality and functions Can manage and maintain information about clients Can facilitate prompt access to relevant information for management, staff and board 5.7 Can handle and incorporate new products, multiple offices, services and delivery channels 5.8 Can cope with planned growth Security & staff support Microcredit providers will Restrict access to data captured by an MIS Operate with different levels of user access Have provisions to store and restore information Have an MIS that can perform regular back-ups Have safeguards to prevent illicit or accidental alteration of data files 5.14 Have an MIS that can produce audit trail on crucial operations Provide training and/or manuals to staff

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21 Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision 1 Customer and Investor Relations 21

22 1 Customer and Investor Relations Introduction Microcredit providers have clear obligations towards customers and investors. The well-being of customers is intimately linked to the mission of microcredit providers to combat poverty and social and financial exclusion, while private and public investors are increasingly important in the funding of the sector. Hence, establishing principles that guide the treatment of customers and principles that ensure transparency and reliability in dealing with investors is of great importance. This section of the Code sets out a series of obligations incumbent upon microcredit providers towards their customers and investors. This includes a fair and transparent lending process, right to redress, avoidance of customer over-indebtedness, protection of customer data and transparency vis-àvis investors. Customer relations Sufficient information provided to customer Clause 1.1 Microcredit providers will disclose lending costs in their advertising. This will include borrowing rates, charges and an illustrative example. Clause 1.2 Microcredit providers will disclose the cost as an Annual Percentage Rate of Charge This clause has been identified as a priority clause because disclosing the cost of borrowing is crucial in enabling the customer to make informed financial decisions. The Annual Percentage Rate of Charge must be disclosed in a credit agreement and in any advertising. This refers to the annual value of all commitments, drawdowns, repayments and charges, including fees and taxes paid by the customer and known to the creditor. Clause 1.3 Microcredit providers will provide the following precontractual information to the customer and set it up in the credit agreement : Clause : the identity and geographical address of the lender Clause : the amount Clause : the duration of the credit agreement Clause :the borrowing rate Clause : total amount payable Clause : charges for late repayments Clause : right of early withdrawal Clause : debt-collection practices Clause 1.4 For loans of duration of 12 months or longer, microcredit providers will provide clear and accurate information to their customers about their loan in an annual statement. The annual statement must include the amount paid (interest and principal), the balance left (interest and principal) and the structure of the remaining payments (timing, amounts, interest and principal). The annual statement may be transmitted electronically, on paper or face-to-face. Clause 1.5 Microcredit providers will take adequate measures to ensure that customers fully understand the products, process and terms of the contract. This may, where necessary and appropriate, include training customer-facing staff to communicate effectively with all customers, reading contracts out load for visually impaired or illiterate customers, or providing materials in local languages. 22

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