Over the last decade, there has been a proliferation of initiatives to expand access to formal financial services in underserved markets through Savings Groups (SGs). Initiatives to link Savings Groups with financial service providers (FSPs) have resulted in improved access to finance for SG populations as well as new markets and increased deposits for financial institutions. Several challenges remain, however, before these efforts can reach scale. Product development, delivery channels, customer engagement, multi-stakeholder partnerships and evidence on the supply and demand of financial services for SGs remains thin. Diverse market actors have piloted various approaches to address some of these issues; however, FSPs lack facilitated spaces for mutual learning, and the experience in delivering financial services to Savings Groups remains fragmented.
From June 2017 to January 2018, The SEEP Network convened a Peer Learning Group (PLG) to address the challenges and opportunities financial service providers face when establishing commercial relationships with Savings Groups. This initiative was implemented by The SEEP Network as part of The Mastercard Foundation Savings Learning Lab and facilitated by Ivana Damjanov and Jessica Massie of UNCDF MicroLead. Through a series of in-person workshops, virtual meetings and a public webinar, the PLG explored the different mechanisms, or “bridges,” that can be used to provide formal financial services to Savings Groups.