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Microfinance and banks: Are we the right partners?

The 12th European Microfinance Network Conference

The European Microfinance Network (EMN) are not just an important tool to advocate the importance of microfinance in fighting financial exclusion but also it is an important facilitator for exchanges of information and experience.

The 12th EMN Annual Conference took place on 18th & 19th June and involved active participation of over 300 delegates from more than 20 countries. This year the conference took place in Dublin, more specifically in Malahide on the costal side of the country. The location and theme were well matched; the main topic was the collaboration between the banks and MFIs with Ireland and the UK ahead of many other EU members in building these collaborative relationships. Hosts Microfinance Ireland, hold a strong relationship with AIB, similar to the relationship Fair Finance has with banks in the UK.

Discussion themes

Participants had the chance to learn, contribute and discuss the main topic on several different levels via a diverse set of workshops over two days. Workshops were organised under three main sub-themes to give participants the chance to focus on specific areas depending on their interests or requirements:
- Collaborative Models,
- Collaboration for Sustainability and
- Future Innovation

Three workshops took place under each sub-topic where each participant had the opportunity to exchange knowledge and lessons learnt and to gain valuable information while meeting potential business partners. During workshops different opportunities and challenges were discussed surrounding the relationship between banks and microfinance institutions. The participants’ backgrounds were mixed, including microfinance institutions, banks, activists, researchers, governmental organisations, and representatives from international development organisations (EIF, EIB and the European Commission).

Fair Finance was an active participant in the conference, represented by Robert Benfield, Head of Fair Business Loans. Robert acted as a presenter, mediator and speaker for several sessions held during the conference. His plenary on the topic of future innovation involved a lively discussion regarding the recent surge of Fintech companies and lending platforms and their impact on the financial market.

small business loans uk conference


The event ultimately recognised the importance of a fruitful collaboration between the microfinance sector and mainstream financial institutions:
- Banks will be able to help their clients by offering a complementary alternative, while achieving their service objectives and narrowing recognised gaps in the market.
- Microfinance institutions will benefit from the banks by obtaining necessary funding and investment, client referrals and technical assistance.
- The key aim is to benefit end users by minimising exclusion when it comes to funding for small business so that businesses are able to develop and grow. Subsequently we will see a huge benefit to economies and communities as result of job creation, capital investment and innovation.
- Microfinance institutions need at a minimum to start working with new fintech companies and consider exploring their own Fintech models

What’s next

October 2015: The first European Microfinance day
2016: Next Year’s EMN conference will be in Warsaw, Poland, with the theme still to be decided.
For further information please visit the EMN website
the conference’s website :

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