Measuring the development of our most important stakeholders: customers

Rodrigo Peláez Peláez, Social Performance Measurement Unit director BBVAMF

In his popular TED talk about how great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek tells us that all organisations know what they are doing (their end product or service, their what) and some even know how they are doing it (their differential value proposition, their how). However, very few know why they are doing it, what their purpose is: their mission, their why. And among those that know, even fewer communicate and act from that point outwards.

The BBVAMF group is creating and sharing knowledge about social performance based on a closer and more systematic understanding of our customers. The challenge lies in being able to turn this knowledge into action, interweaving it more closely into management and strategy

Rodrigo Peláez

The BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) is clear a bout its why: “To promote the inclusive and sustainable development of disadvantaged people in society”. We are also clear on the how: “Responsible Productive Finance”. In fact, not only are we clear on these points, but also continually ensure alignment with them in everything we do.

In 2012 the BBVAMF set up the Social Performance Measurement Unit to oversee compliance with our mission, on the premise that rigorous and detailed measurement of our activity’s social performance would steer us towards excellence in achieving our purpose, so we could work in line with this goal.

Since then the Foundation has made strenuous efforts to collate, process and store historical data on the 1.7 million customers serviced by BBVAMF-Group microfinance institutions today; always monitoring the consistency, accuracy and completeness of this valuable information.

The Foundation has gone beyond recording how many entrepreneurs it services, how many are male or female, and the average loan being granted. BBVAMF now obtains further insight into their financial and social performance over time. Our measurement of social performance is based on understanding changes in our customers’ key attributes and business activities. These entrepreneurs’ needs and development lie at the core of the Foundation’s why?

Our fourth annual social performance report “Measuring what really matters”, covering 2015 in detail, records that customers’ sales grew at an annual rate of 16% and their assets grew at 30%. The figures show that after two years of a relationship with Group institutions, at least 32% of customers who had been classified as poor at the outset of their first loan managed to generate a surplus above the per capita poverty line. This represents over 40,000 entrepreneurs between 2011 and 2015 in the countries where the Foundation operates.

The report also reveals that after the same two-year period, 8% of customers succeed in creating new jobs, thereby helping to strengthen their community’s business economy; and that in some Group institutions, 15% of customers improve their healthcare cover.

Without alleging causality, these results suggest that the Foundation’s activity is aligned with our mission. Its customers’ social and economic patterns over time show that our aim of helping our low-income borrowers’ businesses grow stronger is being achieved.

So what makes this approach to social-performance measurement different?

Firstly, a particularly distinguishing feature comes from the nature of the BBVAMF Group. Our scale enables us to process, aggregate and compare social performance indicators across our member institutions. This ability stands as an example for other players in this sector, for which it is a major challenge. Our approach discerns local and global patterns of social performance that enable the Foundation to position ourself and communicate externally in a clear and unified fashion. Everything stems from our why, our social mission.

Secondly, the approach is grounded on information captured and updated whenever our microfinance institutions assess and monitor a customer.This means that nearly 100% of the customers are included in the analysis, and that the results obtained are very robust. They are not founded on surveys about the past and present that a sample of customers answer at a given moment, but on information that is constantly collated and updated as a matter of course during the various interactions with customers. In turn, this means that social performance analyses and reports within the organisation are put together more often, and become an integral part of our management and strategy.

Thirdly, this approach allows us to dig deeper into our knowledge of customers and to reach informed conclusions about their social performance. These are useful for the institutions’ business intelligence and risk areas, improving the products and services we offer customers. For example, the report shows that in one of the Group institutions, 91% of credit customers who also have savings products continue their credit relationship with the institution after one year, while this proportion shrinks to 73% when customers have credit, but no savings products. This result suggests that fomenting saving among our borrowers makes it possible to generate better, longer-term relationships. This means the social impact generated by the Foundation’s activity is greater.

The BBVAMF group is creating and sharing knowledge about social performance based on a closer and more systematic understanding of our customers. The challenge lies in being able to turn this knowledge into action, interweaving it more closely into management and strategy so that this perspective becomes an inherent part of decision-making within the organisation. This is the way, finally, in which BBVAMF not only will fully know its why, as Sinek argues it, but even more so, will be acting constantly and automatically from that why, in the interests of its most important stakeholders: its customers.