After a decade of raising awareness and incentivizing the adoption of responsible practices among inclusive finance providers, the Smart Campaign is coming to an end. CFI will transfer the wealth of resources created by the Smart Campaign to trusted industry partners and remains committed to consumer protection and playing an active role by conducting research on emerging risks and maintaining the Consumer Protection Principles.
MFC was contributing to the development of the Campaign from its beginnigs.
The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), an independent think tank housed at Accion, launched the Smart Campaign over a decade ago to advance consumer protection for low-income customers. Over the span of the program, CFI played a catalytic role in advancing knowledge of consumer protection by conducting research, establishing the Client Protection Principles, and rolling out a certification program under which 135 institutions attained Smart Certification, expanding protection for more than 62 million clients globally. Building on this success, CFI will transfer the wealth of implementation resources created by the Smart Campaign to trusted industry partners, enabling CFI to continue playing a catalytic role focused on the risks to low-income customers in the rapidly changing inclusive finance landscape.
CFI and our partners are proud of what the Smart Campaign has achieved over the past ten years by bringing heightened attention to consumer protection and creating a common language for the inclusive finance community. In order for CFI to focus on identifying, understanding, and catalyzing the conversation on an evolving range of critical topics, CFI will shift ownership of the Smart Campaign implementation resources to SPTF and CERISE and sunset the Smart Campaign brand. These partners were instrumental in the creation of many of these resources, and their focus on implementation and direct engagement with financial service providers (FSPs) make them well-suited to the ongoing management of these resources. With this handoff, CFI will remain focused on consumer protection through its research on emerging risks in the increasingly complex inclusive finance landscape, such as risks concerning data privacy, algorithmic decision-making, and sup-tech solutions.
Longtime partners to the Smart Campaign, SPTF and CERISE, will become the stewards of the Campaign’s community of experts, implementation tools, and Client Protection Standards. The Smart Campaign’s standards have always been fully integrated in the SPTF’s Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (USSPM), and SPTF will maintain and update the consumer protection portion of the Universal Standards in the future.
Providers and others will continue to be able to access the Smart Campaign tools through SPTF’s Resource Center and will access implementation support through the SPTF-managed Responsible Inclusive Finance Facilities. The active consumer protection assessors and trainers that the Smart Campaign accredited over the years will also move into the larger community of social performance management experts managed by SPTF and CERISE, creating increased efficiency.
CFI will also gradually retire the Smart Certification brand. New Smart Certification seals will continue to be awarded until April 30, 2021. All four-year certifications will be valid for the full length of the accreditation and CFI will continue to display a list of certified FSPs. We believe that a global client protection recognition scheme remains an important tool to incentivize and recognize FSPs that are committed to consumer protection and are collaborating closely with the Smart Campaign’s highly experienced Certification Bodies to provide continuity in the market beyond April 2021. The licensed Certification Bodies are well positioned to continue offering products under their own branding that recognize FSPs for their consumer protection performance at the global level.
CFI remains committed to consumer protection as a core part of our mission and will continue to work with the industry to produce new research and maintain the Client Protection Principles and Guidance. We will also work closely with our partners, SPTF and CERISE, along with the Certification Bodies and others to translate CFI’s research into practical tools for FSPs. CFI is grateful to all those who have supported the Smart Campaign over the years – donors, investors, FSPs, regulators, consultants, and other partner organizations – and looks forward to ongoing partnership as we collectively work to improve consumer protection for low-income customers.
Message from SPTF and CERISE
As long-time partners of the Smart Campaign, SPTF and CERISE are committed to preserving and advancing the Client Protection Standards. Dimension 4 of the Universal Standards—entitled Treat Clients Responsibly—contains all of the Campaign’s Client Protection Standards. Client Protection has always been a central part of our work and that will not change. As time passes, SPTF and CERISE will steward the evolution of this client protection content, ensuring that it continues to be the ‘do no harm’ foundation of social performance management.
Similarly, SPTF and CERISE will maintain the Smart Campaign’s extensive library of resources—guides, templates, case studies, and more—in the SPTF Resource Center. Though we already have many of these resources in the Resource Center, we will soon offer a better user experience and new features that will make it easier to find the resources you need.
With regards to client protection certification, neither SPTF nor CERISE is structured as an accreditation body. However, we are making ourselves available as a common platform for rating agencies to coordinate on their plans for client protection assessment and rating products. We are analyzing market demand for different types of assessment and rating products—including interviews with FSPs, networks, regulators, and investors to understand what the market needs. Our recent conversations with rating agencies indicate that they are committed to providing client protection products and are excited about the possibilities for more flexible options for the market.
SPTF and CERISE also wish to recognize the community of experts—trainers, assessors, TA providers, and others—who have brought client protection to life in the field. We urge these experts who are not already part of the SPTF TA Database to join to SPTF TA Database which will connect you to our mailing lists, to potential clients, and to other experts. In the coming months, we will have networking and learning opportunities tailored to this community, so please make sure we have your contact information. In the meantime, please email us with questions and ideas for how we can serve you best. And check out our FAQs for more information on this transition.
In the coming months, SPTF and CERISE will continue to wholeheartedly pursue our customer empowerment and customer outcomes agendas. We are excited to build on the client protection work that has been faithfully developed over the past decade and to push ahead toward the achievement of even bolder social goals for our industry.
Thank you for being a part of it. And thank you again to the Smart Campaign!