On October 23-25, 2013, the 12th National Conference on Microfinance and Financial Inclusion, entitled "Innovation and Consumer Protection: Implementing a Client-Centric Approach", was held in Moscow. The participants discussed ways of making financial services more accessible. They reviewed this issue through the prism of Russia's G20 Presidency.
As per tradition, the conference was held by the National Partnership of Microfinance Market Stakeholders (NAMMS) in cooperation with the Russian Microfinance Center (RMC) and with the support of Russia's Ministry of Finance, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. The event took place under the patronage of the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a special body established by the G20 for coordinating efforts in this sphere.
The national conference has been a central annual event in the field of microfinance. During the last four years it has been included in the top three events of Global Business Week, held in more than 150 countries. In 2013, it was attended by about 500 people from Russia's regions, its neighbors and other foreign countries.
At the first plenary session, the participants discussed how reform of the mega regulator, self-regulation and state support will influence the quality and transparency of the microfinance and credit cooperation market.
In his speech NAMMS and RMC President Mikhail Mamuta cited the figures of a comparative market analysis, confirming that microfinance is the largest sector of the financial market. He believes that one of the main tasks is to create long-term favorable conditions for the development of transparent companies where support for innovations plays a major role. There is global demand for such companies, and they should also be established in Russia, but while necessarily taking into account the required safety of transactions. It is also necessary to form a comprehensive infrastructure of market development, which should include servicing companies, rating agencies and training centers, to name a few. It is important to reduce the cost of loans, that is, to find ways of diminishing the cost of resources for microfinance institutions.
In the end of his speech, Mamuta expressed the hope that as a result of concerted efforts the share of the population without access to official legal and protected financial services will be reduced from 25% to 10% by 2017, which is only possible in conditions of effective market development. This is why it is vital to find a reasonable balance between commitments and opportunities, and between regulation and development.
Representatives of the mega regulator also expressed their position at the conference, which was outlined by First Deputy Head of the Central Bank's Financial Service Vladimir Chistyukhin. He fully supported the idea of self-regulation, because the regulator can implement its microfinance tasks only by relying on self-regulating organizations.
Foreign experts also spoke on this issue. Senior Policy Adviser for the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) Timothy Lyman delivered a report on the issue of regulation with the aim of increasing financial inclusion and protecting consumer rights. He recalled that during the past decade, the financial bodies of the majority of developing nations and countries with transitional economies were trying to improve the living standards of low-income people and the operation of micro-enterprises by facilitating their access to financial services. However, this task requires innovations and regulation that ensure consumer protection.
Russian GPFI Co-Chair Anna Zelentsova moderated the plenary meeting on financial innovations in consumer interests on October 24. She spoke on the main results of the Russia's G20 Presidency in the empowering consumers of financial products, improving of the financial literacy of people and effective consumer protection systems.
The last few years have seen a rapid spread of financial innovations, both of a technological and institutional character. This is making financial services more accessible to consumers in the interest of development, but at the same time it is becoming increasingly important to maintain the focus of the financial system on consumer needs. Participants in the meeting emphasized the importance of protecting consumer rights and making financial services more accessible under a stable financial system. They pointed out that these issues are at the top of the agenda of international associations (OSCE, the World Bank and CGAP), Russian regulators and other players on the market. All of these issues were discussed on the second day of the conference.
More information about the conference you can find here