Lack of financial linkages with small scale farmers, value chain actors of different agriculture businesses, small scale enterprises and entrepreneurs is a major hurdle, especially for the rural population. To address these challenges, Sanima Bank is introducing financial products and services that are most appropriate and suitable for the underbanked/unbanked, deprived and marginalized people in these communities. The primary project objective is to cater to the financial needs of households and individuals in semi-urban and rural areas from existing and new Sanima Bank touchpoints.
Nepal’s rural population has very limited access to formal Financial Service Providers (FSP), especially to commercial banks which have traditionally targeted urban customer bases. Even where FSPs are present, they lack products and services that cater to these unique needs. Community-based organisations like cooperatives are the primary financial service providers in such a scenario. However, due to their limited capacity and individual ticket size of the loans, the number of customers served by cooperatives remains small. But FSPs like commercial banks do not provide small ticket loans – less than NPR 1 million.
A graduating customer of a cooperative or a new customer whose financial needs falls in between the largest and smallest loan value provided by these two types of FSPs, called the ‘missing middle’, has limited options. As a result, many such customers end up borrowing from more than one institution. This results in an increase in the customer’s cost, and increases the possibility of over indebtedness. To cater to the needs of this ‘missing middle’, Sanima Bank and UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) have partnered to develop financial products with simplified terms and procedures.
With Sakchyam’s support, Sanima Bank has opened a physical branch in Kalikot district, which is one of the most financially underserved district in Nepal. The bank has also deployed 21 staff dedicated to work for the deprived sector through select branches. Through the partnership, the bank is catering to the needs of customers currently deprived of formal finance, with a special focus on the “missing middle” segment.
Sanima Bank has been providing loans and savings products along with other banking services to the target beneficiaries through its existing 17 branches, covering 13 districts – Jhapa, Dhading, Chitwan, Sunsari, Banke, Sankhuwasabha, Rupandehi, Makwanpur, Kailali, Dang, Surkhet, Kanchanpur and Kalikot. It aims to provide NPR 99 million in loans to 3,436 borrowers over 3 years of the project duration under direct “Deprived Sector Lending” through 6 different rural-centric loan products.
As of June 2019, Sanima Bank has reached more than 5,500 customers through new financial services, disbursed NPR 1.38 billion in loans, and collected NPR 99.4 million in deposits.