When I first arrived at TLM in January, I read their 2011 business plan and was thrilled to see that the MFI was planning to launch mobile savings by mid-year! Just as kids dream of sugar plums and gumdrops at Christmas, my mind flooded with images of cellphones chirping with loan repayment text messages and happy borrowers following up on their loans far away from any branch office. I was elated that I was placed at an MFI that was pioneering the way with mobile phone banking technology!
I proceeded to read the text under the “mobile savings” heading and quickly realized that (1) I have an active imagination and (2) TLM’s mobile savings was a different spin on words than what my mind had quickly conjured up. TLM’s mobile savings consisted of transportation vans not cellphones as the method of reaching clients in remote areas. Though my dreams of cellphones were quickly vanquished, I thought that the concept of making banking mobile through vans was a simple, yet an ingenious idea. It definitely is a solution for small MFIs that do not have the technology, funding, and/or staff to start up initiatives such as mobile phone banking.
TLM had developed this mobile savings plan with the help of the Ford Foundation to increase the access of financial services and other transformation initiatives in the remote provinces of West Timor. Initially, a specific emphasis will be placed on education and the introduction of savings products, though other services such as loan repayments will also be available.
To support this goal, a team from the TLM staff was selected and specifically trained to understand the needs of these unique clients. The vans that will be used for the initiative were custom made for TLM. Mock-up drawings were passed back and forth for weeks between the staff desks, with many people putting in suggestions for the vehicle’s design. After a few short weeks, there are now two new vans parked in front of the TLM main office, which everyone is extremely proud of.
The first mobile savings deployment is planned for April 18th, 2011, and by the end of 2011 TLM hopes to accomplish the following:
• Reach 3,200 village traders with financial education
• Provide 2,500 senior high school students with financial education
• Onboard 1,000 new savings clients
• Provide over 500 existing clients with improved savings access
• Provide up to 5,000 existing clients with improved loan repayment access
After reading the mobile savings transformation initiative at TLM, I am truly thrilled to see the project get off the ground in the upcoming months as well as its initial impact. It is great to see an MFI use this unique form of mobile savings to extend financial services to their most remote clients.