About the Conference
The annual National Conference on Microfinance and Financial Inclusion (hereinafter, Conference) is the microfinance industry's widely recognized and representative professional forum with many years of history which has served as an effective instrument for promoting dialogue, building strategies and establishing business connections. Featuring more than twenty plenary sessions, panel discussions and workshops which address some of the most pressing issues faced by the industry, the Conference brings together more than 600 participants, including representatives of federal and regional authorities, the industry's regulator, international development institutions, self-regulatory and advocacy organizations, leading microfinance institutions, senior representatives of the banking sector as well as Russian and international microfinance community, analysts and experts.
For a ninth consecutive year, the Conference has featured in the Top Three of the Global Entrepreneurship Week campaigns held in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Some of the former Conferences' takeaways and resolutions have served as a framework for the development of Russia's microfinance industry in the next year and more broadly – for building the country's financial inclusion strategy.
The National Association of Microfinance Market Stakeholders (NAMMS) is the Conference organizer, and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) and NAMMS members have traditionally served as its co-organizers.
It is important to mention that NAMMS activity is inseparable from that of the Russian Microfinance Center (RMC), on whose initiative and with support from leading market participants NAMMS was established in 2006. It is noteworthy that this year's XVI (Sixteenth) National Conference on Microfinance and Financial Inclusion coincides with the fifteenth anniversary of RMC.
Goals and Objectives of the 2017 Conference
The microfinance sector has played an increasingly important role in the country's financial system and economy, serving as an instrument of financial inclusion and effective support of entrepreneurship. Alongside a decrease in the number of market participants in 2016 (by more than 16% from 17,300 to 14,500 companies), the industry saw a significant increase in the aggregate loan portfolio – from 167 billion to 185.1 billion rubles, mainly due to the growing portfolios of MFOs (25.3%) and pawnshops (14.3%) – and in the total number of borrowers – from 7.3 to 9.1 million, mainly due to a 54.9% increase in MFO clientele. The observed sustainable demand is proof of the relevance and value of microfinance services for customers. Steps taken to facilitate lending to SMEs, such as raising the microloan cap to 5 million rubles and "Program 6.5%" offered by the Bank of Russia, have encouraged the creation and development of MFOs focused on financing entrepreneurs. At the same time, controversy continues in Russian society over a particular segment of consumer lenders, and the entire microfinance industry is sometimes associated in public perceptions with certain unscrupulous – or even illegal – providers.
A series of regulatory steps implemented in recent years with input from the Bank of Russia, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy have been instrumental in shaping a fundamentally new and more transparent microfinance market, in which consumer rights are better protected. While generally in favor of proactive regulation, the sector is concerned about such measures being well-balanced and informed by realistic expectations as to MFOs, credit cooperatives and pawnshops' capacity to comply with new regulatory initiatives, as well as the feasibility of proposed changes and their impact assessment.
Lack of access to adequate funding, interest rate caps and high compliance costs can drastically limit MFI profitability and investment attractiveness. These tendencies are usually associated with controversial policy initiatives, often of a populist nature.
The main objective of this Conference is to search for innovative and sustainable solutions for better financial inclusion, based on optimization of the regulatory burden as well as a radical change of business model for lending, wider use of technological innovations, proactive social and educational outreach, and promoting MFOs, CCs and pawnshops' partnerships with banks and other financial market participants for new business solutions.
The Conference will cover the following priority topics:
- upcoming new industry regulation, updates on draft legislative and policy initiatives relevant to MFO, CC and pawnshop operations;
- to what extent the current regulatory burden is optimized: how proportional regulation is implemented in microfinance;
- digitalization of lending and payment services: challenges and opportunities of using new technology in microfinance;
- new mechanisms of state support for SMEs: whether they will also apply to commercial MFOs, CCs and pawnshops;
- bank-operated MFOs: regulatory arbitrage or prospective partnership;
- banks and MFIs: from competition to partnership. Customized banking products for MFIs, agency schemes and other instruments for effective bank/MFI engagement;
- standards in action: the emerging practice of applying SRO standards;
- action against money laundering in microfinance: how to streamline the costs of compliance with the AML/CTF law;
- "illegal" lenders: further restrictions of lending operations by entities/persons who are not legally creditors in the meaning of the Law on Consumer Credit (Loan). Pawnshops and consignment stores, credit cooperatives and consumer societies: which of them are legal lenders;
- effective self-regulation: criteria for good performance of MFO and CC SROs. Voluntary self-regulation in the pawnshop sector;
- what CCs can and cannot do: widening the range of operations while staying true to cooperative principles;
- challenges of transition: switching to a single chart of accounts and industry accounting standards.
TIMELINE of Russian Microfinance Conferences
- 2002 - The First Conference "Microfinance in Russia: Development Perspectives" (Moscow). The conference was attended by approximately 120 people.
- 2003 - The Second Conference "Microfinance in Russia: New Frontiers of Development" (St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by 196 representatives of the microfinance community.
- 2004 - The Third Conference "Microfinance in Russia Today and Tomorrow: Trends in Growth" (Moscow). The conference was attended by more than 300 people.
- 2005 - The Fourth Conference "Microfinance in Russia: Successful Strategies for Economic Growth" (St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by more than 400 people.
- 2006 - The Fifth Conference "Microfinance in Russia: Components of Success. Past Experience for Future Growth" (Moscow). The conference was attended by 434 people.
- 2007 - The Sixth Conference "Microfinance in Russia: Building an All-Inclusive Financial System" (Moscow). The conference was attended by more than 500 people.
- 2008 - The Seventh Conference "Microfinance in Russia: New Technologies of Success" (St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by 534 people from 42 Russian regions and 28 other countries.
- 2009 - The Eighth Conference "The Role of Microfinance in Overcoming the Financial and Economic Crisis" (Moscow). The conference was attended by 500 people from 51 Russian regions and 22 countries.
- 2010 - The Ninth Conference "Microfinance in Russia on the Threshold of Change: Lessons of the Crisis and New Opportunities" (Moscow). The conference was attended by 489 people from 62 Russian regions and 18 countries.
- 2011 - The Tenth Conference "New Decade, New Challenges: Regulation as a Driver of Development" (Moscow). The conference was attended by 540 people from 66 Russian regions and 23 countries.
- 2012 - The Eleventh Conference "Access to Finance for All and for Everyone: How to Ensure Socially Responsible Development of the Financial System?" (Kazan). The conference was attended by some 500 people from 56 Russian regions and 11 countries.
- 2013 - The Twelfth Conference "Innovation and Consumer Protection: Implementing Client-Centric Approach" (Moscow). The conference was attended by more 500 people from 59 Russian regions and 13 other countries.
- 2014 - The Thirteenth Conference "Market Formation and Evolution under Megaregulation: Challenges and Opportunities for CCs and MFIs" (St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by more than 500 people.
- 2015 - The Fourteenth conference "Microfinance v. 2.0. Reloading"(St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by more than 600 people.
- 2016 - The Fifteenth Conference "Microfinance. Revolution "(St. Petersburg). The conference was attended by more than 600 people.