Written by: Melissa Lemus
Today, the four of us embarked on our first field visit of the project in two groups. Tiffany and I went to Carabayllo in the north part of Lima while Ermelinda and Haleema went to Villa El Salvador, the south part of Lima. When we arrived at Mibanco’s Carabayllo branch, we met with a very welcoming branch administrator who talked about the relationship between the loan officers and the clients. During our conversation, the branch administrator said something that stuck in my mind the rest of the day as I met clients: Credit is a benefit, not a headache.
I was paired up with Jose, a loan officer with 13 years of experience at Mibanco’s Carabayllo branch. As we made our rounds and met his clients, with different types of businesses, I kept thinking back to what the branch administrator had said. Jose explained to me that until a few years ago, the residents of Carabayllo had no access to credit. Due to the poverty in the region, major banks assumed that loans would not be paid back, so they stayed away. However, Mibanco saw an opportunity in the region and became one of the first institutions to provide loans to local entrepreneurs and business owners. By entering the market, Mibanco began providing a benefit that opened a door to many opportunities in Carabayllo (and other parts of Peru) such as business growth, better quality of life, etc.
In the US, consumers take for granted the widely available access to credit. Many are living beyond their means and, as a result, are plagued with debt that they can not overcome. This is not the case with the clients at Mibanco. During my client visits, I learned that clients are usually careful when taking out loans. Since access to credit is a relatively new concept to them, many of these clients do not want to be tied down with the debt; therefore, they repay their loans promptly and refrain from taking out additional loans. These clients see the loans as providing a benefit to them and pay special attention to not get overwhelmed with a lot of debt. Although not every client has this mindset, the loan officers at Mibanco work hard to ensure that all clients do not become overburdened with loans. In times of difficulty, loan officers assist their clients in finding manageable ways to manage their loans.
Today’s experience was extremely rewarding. Not only did I get to see the success stories of Mibanco clients, but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to see what the loan officers do and how important their roles are in the community. After today, I can’t wait to go back out to the field tomorrow!