Using palm pilots to manage loans

ADOPEM raises efficiency with handheld technology

Ten microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Latin America, one in India and one in the Philippines use handheld technology to improve their loan officers’ productivity and the quality of client data they gather. ADOPEM is an MFI with some 50,000 active clients in the Dominican Republic. They began using handheld technology to boost efficiency in their lending round about the year 2000. Women’s World Banking (WWB) had contracted Chuck Waterfield of MFI Solutions LLC to develop Palm Pilot software for ADOPEM, with a view to creating a tool that would reduce the time it took loan officers to capture client data, make it faster and easier to transfer that data to the institution’s central database and help to standardize the data thus collected.

ADOPEM’s loan officers each had, as of mid-1999, an average caseload of 150 to 200 clients – below the region’s typical best-practice level of 300. After introducing the Palm Pilots, loan officers were soon able to increase their caseloads significantly: the average had risen to 344 by 2003. Given the findings from WWB’s client research throughout the world, showing the high value placed by MFIs’ clients on fast and efficient service, the use of handheld technology to streamline lending processes (such as the evaluation of loan applications) could prove critical. As MFIs face greater competition in their markets, an ability to respond to new loan applications speedily, but without sacrificing prudence, will be a key comparative advantage.

The use of Palm Pilot technology has had a positive impact on ADOPEM’s performance. Operational impact includes an increased number and average size of loans disbursed, decreased amount of time required to evaluate loans and more efficient organization of loan officers’ daily activities. Financial impact can be seen in ADOPEM’s lowered operating costs, the increased productivity levels of individual loan officers and a reduction in staff costs.

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