Queen Letizia joined the BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) on a videoconference to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting Latin American micro-enterprises and to learn about the measures the foundation has put in place via its entities in the five countries it operates (Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and Panama).
During the meeting, BBVAMF CEO Javier M. Flores outlined the three prongs of the current strategy: first, to safeguard the health of participating entrepreneurs and the 8,500 employees across the different affiliate entities; second, to support vulnerable people and the continuity of economic activity, considered essential in each country; and third, to ensure the sustainability of operations and, in turn, the fulfillment of the Foundation's social mission: the sustainable development of entrepreneurs who have productive business activities.
To this end, the Foundation is working very closely with the respective national authorities and financial regulators in order to implement additional measures such as facilitating access to possible public support funds for micro-entrepreneurs. The BBVAMF CEO told the queen that the foundation is also considering offering new lines of credit, essentially seed money, so that those who have been most impacted can start back up: "The microfinance lending institutions are working closer than ever with the entrepreneurs, helping them overcome these difficult times.”
A significant part of this support comes from the loan officers, who maintain constant communication with the more than 900,000 customers who have active loans, in order to individually attend to their requests and find solutions adapted to their unique circumstances. Stephanie G. Van Gool, the Director of Impact Assessment and Strategic Development at BBVAMF told Queen Letizia that the Foundation has already begun to measure the pandemic’s impact on the entrepreneurs’ businesses, using social performance indicators that are also used as a management tool.
BBVAMF's digital transformation: key during the crisis
The BBVA Microfinance Foundation work has been bolstered by the digital transformation they began a few years ago across its six microfinance entities. Digitization has facilitated decision-making backed by data analytics and by experience accumulated over time. “Our progress in digitalization today allows for almost 100 percent of central offices and a good portion of the commercial network to work as normal remotely, keeping the minimum number of staff required in the offices and shoring up the digital support channels,” the Head of Talent and Culture at BBVAMF, José Martin, affirmed in the meeting with the queen.
In fact, digitization will continue to play a fundamental role in the future of BBVAMF and for its participating entrepreneurs. According to the foundation's CEO, "We are preparing to help them adapt their small businesses, making the digital mechanisms available that will permit them to operate digitally even in a rural environment where coverage is limited.” An increasingly digital future will help reinforce their resilience, allowing them to continue working toward their progress and that of their families and in a wider sense contributing to the economic and social development of Latin America.