Plan SavingsNovember 6, 2019
Encouraging micro-entrepreneurship among rural women was one of the major focuses of the first partnership between UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance and Unique Nepal Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha (then known as UNYC). New loan products catering to small businesses were also launched to help the clients scale up their enterprises.
The increase in the demand for the loan which was not matched by the savings at UNYC resulted in the decline of the savings to outstanding loan portfolio ratio — from 71% in July 2014 to 39% in July 2016. At the same time, external borrowing became difficult for the Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Nepal as the central bank changed the Deprived Sector Lending (DSL) policy in 2016 and also regulated the interest rate and its spread*.
This led Unique to look for ways to build their savings portfolio and improving internal deposits from their clients seemed the best option. Unique approached UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance for support in developing new savings product. A second partnership project titled Savings Increment Model was launched.
Sakchyam initiated a systematic market study, to explore the gaps in existing savings products and find out the ideal features required for a new savings product. A part of the product development process, the study was conducted among both the demand & supply sides, collaborators and competitors. Several rounds of meetings were held with the Board of Directors, senior management and branch staff of Unique Nepal. On the demand side, several Focus Group Discussions were conducted with the clients.The study identified that clients have deposit capacity which can be tapped through a mid-term voluntary savings product that has optimum flexibility in deposits and withdrawals.
The key preferences of the clients as per the findings of the study included:
- Provision for flexible deposit frequency in the saving account
- They should be able to withdraw money in short intervals
- Their amount in the savings account should not be used for group guarantee (default loan repayment of their group members)
- Deposit amount not to be disclosed at the centre meetings
- Centre Chief’s approval not required for withdrawal
As Unique didn’t have such a product, the team developed a mid-term commitment saving product named Plan Savings. A two-month pilot testing of the product started in December 2017 in two branches – Mainapokhar in Bardia and Bauniya in Kailali – with six accounts.
Features of the Product
Unique’s Plan Savings offer two deposit plans — Plan 1 and Plan 2. The features of the two plans are as below:
Clients can deposit any amount of money at Unique branches or the centre meetings and get access to a special loan of up to 80% of their saved amount. The Plan can be upgraded during the maturity and continue deposits after maturity. The savings will be used by Unique only to recover the default loans of the client herself and not others, not even her group members.
Within three years of the launch of Plan Savings, Unique intends to reach an average saving to loan outstanding ratio of at least 60% by mobilizing an additional savings of NPR 215.36 million. This will help reduce the organisation’s dependence on wholesale borrowings. The organisation also aims to encourage clients to develop the saving habit and productive usage of the saved amount through such products.
Unique offers Plan Savings in all 38 branches, out of which 36 are supported by the partnership with Sakchyam.
As of September 2019, NPR 94 million have been deposited under the plan saving; this amounts to 5% of total deposit balance and 3.3% of the total outstanding loan portfolio of Unique. The deposit commitment received in of NPR 671 million from more than 28,000 clients.
Till September a total of NPR 5 million has been withdrawn by more than 350 clients.