Monday 29th November 2021
KMF Micro-Finance Institution (MFI) in Kazakhstan has always had a women-centered approach at its core, recognizing the essential role women play in the country’s economic development. We sat down the Managing Director Dalida Davlyatshina to discuss how KMF supports women across Kazakhstan with an already impressive suite of non-financial services.
Alliance: For the benefit of our global readership, can you share the bank’s overall strategic vision?
Davlyatshina: Since our company was founded in 1997, three groups have been our core target clientele: entrepreneurs, rural residents and women in Kazakhstan. They overlap in many ways, so the ideal target client for us was and remains a female entrepreneur living in the countryside. Loans to entrepreneurs make up more than 85 percent of our loan portfolio. Seventy percent of borrowers live in rural areas, and over 50 percent of all borrowers are women. One of the main ongoing tasks for the company is not only to provide affordable financing, but to help clients develop their businesses. We are also on the digitization journey and plan to expand the functionality of our mobile app, including automating the loan application process.
Alliance: What led you to make the decision to target the women’s market with a deliberate strategy?
Davlyatshina: KMF was established as a USAID project to support women who were left without a source of income during the economic transition period in the early ‘90s. The first clients were women who received unsecured loans as part of shared responsibility.
Traditionally, women in Kazakhstan are the guardian of the family and are often in charge of the family budget. They tend to be more responsible, financially disciplined and have lower loan default rates. KMF has therefore always had a focus on women customers.
Alliance: How do you segment the women’s market, and why?
Davlyatshina: KMF does not intentionally segment clients by gender. However, we do implement a set of measures to specifically support women entrepreneurs. These measures, which can be called a program for women, include hosting business conferences where our female borrowers can improve their skill sets and running competitions to identify and award prizes to the best entrepreneurs in various fields. These non-financial services contribute to greater support of women as entrepreneurs and families whose women provide the main source of income.
Alliance: What kind of impact does your institution wish to have through this program? Have you set objectives?
Davlyatshina: The main goal of conducting events for women is to give them an opportunity to develop, share experiences, network with each other and receive up-to-date information for business and self-development. Since 2006, KMF and KMF-Demeu Fund’s conferences have been attended by more than 2,000 women entrepreneurs and have become a platform for sharing information on topical issues, exhibiting businesses and finding useful contacts. In 2019 we expanded a conference called “KMF Isker Hanymy”(which means “KMF Business Lady” in Kazakh) to two cities, Shymkent and Karaganda, covering the northern and southern regions of the country.
In 2020, the company had plans to expand to four cities and host a country-wide competition for the best business idea but had to curtail this due to the pandemic. We did organize meetings in the “women’s café” format of networking and exchange of experience in Almaty, Nur-Sultan and Shymkent, attended by 124 participants.
In 2021, KMF launched a portal for women entrepreneurs with relevant information for business and self-development, success stories, spots for business profiles and more.
We also launched an award for women entrepreneurs in the agriculture, commercial and social sectors. The winners will be announced soon.
Alliance: Capturing sex-disaggregated data is critical to understanding and sizing the market and establishing a baseline for the program. Do you capture sex-disaggregated data? If so, how do you use it?
Davlyatshina: Yes, we collect data disaggregated by gender, such as the share of loans to women, including in rural areas. This is how we assess the performance of our social indicators, which are very important for our social rating and our foreign partners— international funds and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), for example.
Alliance: What is your internal diversity and inclusion strategy? Do you have initiatives to get more women into leadership positions?
Davlyatshina: KMF does not have any specific plans to increase the number of women in managing positions. The company recruits staff based on professional criteria, not gender. Nevertheless, the proportion of women in the company’s management is quite high. Overall, management positions in the company, including branches, are mostly occupied by women. And five out of six members of the company’s management board are women.
Alliance: How did you first hear about the Financial Alliance for Women, and why did you decide to join?
Davlyatshina: We learned about the Financial Alliance back in 2019, when some KMF employees participated in the All-Stars Academy and other events. In 2021, following the recommendation of the EBRD, we decided to join the Financial Alliance, as women customers in KMF historically made up more than half of our client base. We are always open to new sources of information and gaining international experience.