JN Small Business Loans Impelements New Measures to Protect Clients
JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL) has joined other microfinance institutions around the world in implementing Client Protection Principles outlined by the Smart Campaign to protect clients from harmful financial products and to ensure customers are fairly treated.
The three-year Campaign is an initiative being undertaken by a coalition of microfinance institutions, funders, networks and individual practitioners around the globe. Its long term goals are to certify leading microfinance institutions worldwide and to develop a seal of quality that recognises microfinance practices, which promote client protection.
Donna Irving, JNSBL’s Marketing Supervisor, says the campaign was mounted to bring together stakeholders in the microfinance industry to agree to a common code of conduct that defines how clients should be treated and protected.
“The campaign is supported by six core principles that set a minimum standard for operation in the industry,” Ms. Irving explained. The principles include putting systems and instruments in place to avoid client over-indebtedness; promote transparent and responsible pricing; encourage appropriate debt collection practices; promote ethical staff behavior; establish mechanisms to address client complaints; and protect client data.
Ms. Irving noted that JNSBL, as the leading microfinance provider in Jamaica, has endorsed this campaign via the website: www.smartcampaign.org, and has so far implemented several measures to ensure these principles are maintained. These measures include developing brochures to advise clients how to recognise when they are in debt and how to manage it. The brochures also outline the company’s debt collection practices and what clients are to expect during a delinquency call or visit. Miss Irving also said that the company will be hosting a series of Debt Management Seminars in early 2011 to assist clients with preventing over-indebtedness. The presentations at the seminars, which will be held in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Mandeville and Kingston, will be led by JNSBL’s sister company JN Fund Managers.
Miss Irving said JNSBL has also incorporated a Declaration of Understanding into the loan disbursement process.
“The Declaration outlines that all details of the loan have been explained to the client by his or her Field Officer and it must be signed by both the client and Field Officer and witnessed by a Supervisor,” Ms. Irving outlined.
Clients are also given a Loan Approval Letter, upon disbursement of the funds. The letter outlines the type of loan products; the loan amount; the term of the loan; the relevant interest charges; and weekly payments that are to be made.
“Our clients are given a ‘hotline card’ which allows them to use a toll-free line to report inappropriate collection practices; unethical staff behavior as well as, to make other complaints and recommendations. A log has been developed to record all complaints that are handled by an ethics committee,” Ms. Irving said. “The company’s Bailiffs’ contract has also been amended to include a clause detailing how they should treat our clients,” Ms. Irving said.
In addition, a Code of Ethics has been drafted highlighting the company’s expectations of how employees should treat with professional and personal matters. “And, in our Code of Ethics handbook we outline how client information should be used by our employees and the consequences of compromising this information.”
“Our clients are important to us and therefore we must put in place all the possible measures to ensure that they are protected and treated reasonably,” Miss Irving concluded.