Bringing efficiency to one of Myanmar’s longest-serving NGOs
Since 1997, Pact Myanmar has been helping under-privileged citizens of Myanmar get access to healthcare, sanitation, renewable energy and clean water while also improving their economic status. In 2012, Pact’s microfinance operations which had been providing small loans to citizens started working as Pact Global Microfinance Fund (PGMF), a new government-licensed entity. In 2015, PGMF had a gross loan portfolio of USD 107m with a total of 607,290 active borrowers. In their 20 years, they have been able to help more than a million people – 98% of whom were women.
Paper-based systems were the norm in Myanmar as the country’s ITC infrastructure was unable to support more robust systems. As a result, PGMF’s microfinance operations had been operating on paper ledgers since 1997. These would have to be consolidated on a monthly basis into Excel at branch level, following which a second consolidation would take place at HQ level. This consumed PGMF’s time and resources and there tended to be errors along the way, explains Deputy Director of PGMF, Jason S. Meikle. Having realised the drawbacks of a paper-based solution, PGMF evaluated software companies to help automate their business, back in 2013. While Southtech was one of the two finalists, Southtech’s competitor was chosen to deliver this software but even after 2 and a half years, their solution failed.
PGMF engaged Southtech again in 2016 and they signed an agreement to automate all of PGMF’s microfinance operations with Southtech Ascend Banking (ABS), in May 2016. Southtech Ascend Banking is an award winning, internationally acclaimed Banking and Microfinance Management solution. According to Jason Meikle, “prior to Ascend Banking, our headquarters attempted to digitize operations twice using poorly-fitted software.”
In the 8 months since the agreement was signed, more than 40 branches are now entering daily transactions while the others are coming up to speed with back-data entry. He acknowledges that “it is probably too early to talk about positive change for most of our staff.” The process is long and arduous — data digitization of 800,000 clients, each with an average of 4 loan and savings accounts. However, since daily transactions are being updated, he predicts “a sharp decline in manual processes and all report consolidation. Then I will expect our staff to appreciate the new system more.”
Ascend Banking delivers high ROI by automating expensive manual activities, implementing controls and generating reports for different user categories allowing for effective decision making.
“ABS will make us more efficient in processing time, especially with loans and savings processing and with report consolidation. At the different management levels we will be able to monitor operations on a daily basis rather than once a month. Our clients will benefit as well from more personal interaction with loan officers, less paperwork, and exact calculations”, Jason Meikle outlines.
While Southtech is not PGMF’s first system partner, Deputy Director of PGMF admits that is why they have “something to judge against. I find it hard to think how the relationship could have gone better. It has always felt like we are working in one organization, towards one goal. Southtech staff have gone out of their way to be helpful and sensitive to our issues.”
When asked about how he sees the relationship growing between the two organisations, he outlines that “more future collaboration” was discussed with CEO and Managing Director, Syed Mamnun Quader. Several prospective ideas and opportunities were discussed where Southtech either already has solutions or is in the process of developing what PGMF is seeking.