ThitsaWorks welcomed over 100 guests from over 65 organizations this past week for the event, Digital Microfinance 2018, held at Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). Microfinance industry and tech experts spoke on the evolving trends in digital microfinance while participants ranged from the Financial Regulatory Department, investors, multilateral development organizations, microfinance institutions, banks and telecommunications companies.
The event launched with opening remarks by Dr. Maung Maung Lay, Vice-President of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce (UMFCCI), emphasizing the crucial role that Microfinance institutions play in financial inclusion in Myanmar.
The morning featured presentations, while varying in their topics of technology in Microfinance, all struck to the heart of the core challenges and opportunities that the Microfinance industry faces today. As Cameron Goldie-Scot, CEO of Musoni Systems reported, MFI practitioners perceive technology as one of the biggest risks facing the industry today. Within 5 years time, the market will be very different. The presentations highlighted the current changes for technology in microfinance and called for priorities and mindsets to carry while shedding light on the journey of technological evolution ahead.
The presentations included an overview of Digital Financial Services in Financial Inclusion, presented by U Nyi Nyein Aye, defining the current ecosystem of Microfinance in Myanmar and the strategy forward for microfinance institutions to execute to prepare for upcoming changes.
From the Education NGO, 360Ed, Daw Hla Hla Win, CEO, and Gregory Sandstrom, Director of Blockchain Innovation presented on the emergence of Blockchain — graciously familiarizing the basics for the audience to follow, educating of its potential and risks especially for social impact. Janice Dean, Product Design Manager of ThitsaWorks spoke on the rise of chatbots and the promising role they will have in financial education, giving a sneak peak into the chatbot ThitsaWorks will be launching soon.
Daw May Pyae Sone Kywe, Principal of Matrix Institute of Professionals, outlined essential programming for the very real and challenging task of developing human resource skills for MFIs. Finally, Cameron Goldie-Scot, CEO of Musoni Systems ‘demystified’ us with the potential path that MFIs could take towards adopting technology.
Technology will be essential in reaching remote unbanked populations and expanding financial access, but also for increasing operational efficiency, freeing up the time of loan officers to work with clients as well as creating the infrastructure for essential services such as credit-scoring.
Less well known however, are the ways in which to adapt to technological changes. As U Nyi Nyein Aye remarked in his presentation, organizations will need to plan strategically in order adapt including taking data security measures, budgeting for technology, advancing human resources capacity.
The presentations heightened awareness that is needed to take a ‘middle way’ approach to facing new technology. As Daw Hla Hla Win pointed out, despite the hype surrounding blockchain and its potential for how humans will communicate and transact, it is “neither a miracle or monster.” Chatbots, as Janice Dean from ThitsaWorks presented, are also setting a new wave of interactions that will have a tangible role in financial services and financial education that we need to meet with both optimism and discernment.
It is always helpful to have a plausible roadmap for what to expect in order to adapt to change. As for Microfinance institutions, Cameron Goldie-Scot, CEO of Musoni Systems, presented Technology in microfinance as a “journey” and presented a forecast of how the journey will likely look.
The foundation to the journey for MFIs is to start at the implementation of a core banking system, a system where the all data is streamlined in one place and staff can view what is happening in real time. Once data and operations are digitized, this sets the foundation for future technologies, such as SMS modules, mobile financial systems that could be integrated and eventually credit scoring. With Musoni, SMS modules are already built in and the software will soon integrate with MPT and Wave money as well so clients could carry out repayments and deposits with their mobile phones.
As a technology company, ThitaWorks looks forward to continue acting as stewards of the technological journey for microfinance institutions.
In case you missed it, presentations were also recorded and posted online. You can view these and other materials by visiting the ThitsaWorks Facebook page @Thitsaworks.