The Microfinance Centre (MFC) and the European Microfinance Network (EMN) organised their joint Annual Conference, in partnership with Seed Capital Bizkaia Micro, from 3-5 October 2018 in Bilbao, Spain.
Focused on the implications of the digital revolution on financial and social inclusion, the event gathered about 650 participants – including representatives from European institutions, investors, microfinance institutions, NGOs and fintech experts – from 44 countries (East and West Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and beyond).
Through two plenary sessions and 16 workshops, attendees had the opportunity to explore how microfinance institutions can be proactive in embracing and making the most of technology to provide valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs, start-ups and social enterprises. Discussions embraced issues like big data for financial inclusion, innovative risk management, crowdfunding, MFI partnerships with fintech, and digital solutions fostering the financial & social inclusion of migrants.
Ann Branch, Head of the “Job Creation” Unit of DG EMPL at the European Commission, opened the conference by saying “we must be aware of the social dimension of European institutions and the importance of social investment, which is growing in Europe”. Her speech was followed by Francisco de Paula Coelho, dean of the EIB Institute, who explained the different ways in which the EIB group supports microfinance: “we finance small companies and start up, and we also look for new ways to provide financial services. De Paula Coelho referred to the Juncker Plan, which has mobilised approximately 350,000 million euros for different purposes.
Highlighting the opportunities that the event brings to participants, Luis Baptista, Senior Economist at the EIB Institute, said “This conference is a way to gather insights and discuss microfinance topics between stakeholders, an opportunity to bring new ideas to the table, to share views to disseminate information. Furthermore, the topic of digital revolution is at the forefront not only for microfinance but the whole banking world. Digitalisation is really paving the way for a new vision on how to benefit the customers”.
The conference was closed by Guillermo Dorronsoro, Lecturer at the Deusto Business School, who concluded that “digital transformation in the microfinance sector is here and now, and it is going to disrupt our business model and processes: it’s better be ready”. And continued “it brings opportunities and challenges for social inclusion, and it’s up to us to make the difference, to really care”. Finally, he warned that “surviving disruption is not an easy task, so better work together and help each other”.