Mr. Yenten Lama, CEO of The First MicroFinanceBank, discusses the bank’s strong social mandate, its role in the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and its growth over the past decade.
Yenten Lama, CEO of The First MicroFinanceBank
How was The First MicroFinanceBank (FMFB) originally established here in Tajikistan?
FMFB just celebrated its tenth anniversary in Tajikistan. It was formed with a strong social mandate. A need was felt to provide financial access to the people and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) recognized that a bank would be better able to serve the people under proper regulatory supervision and with a professional approach to meeting the financial needs in this country. The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (Geneva), Aga Khan Foundation (Tajikistan), IFC and KfW have been our shareholders since 2004, with a common goal to increase financial inclusion in Tajikistan.
We have a well spread out network all over the country, with branches in Dushanbe, Rasht, Khujand, Kurgan Tube and Kulyab and with Banking Service Centers in 28 places. The main reason for our wide spread is our social mission; we do not just open branches only in places with commercial potential but seek to reach out to all communities, paying special attention to financial inclusion.
FMFB is not just a microfinance institution. What other services, apart from microfinance, do you offer for clients?
Our origins were in microfinance as suggested by our name but we are a full fledged commercial bank offering lending products as well as deposits, FEX, Remittances and Cards. Over the years we realized that we needed to expand our products and services in order to have more impact and to be sustainable. We thus designed a broader commercial focus, with specific attention to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We have been lending to SMEs for three years now. Microfinance is one way to help the country with its development by reaching out to the underprivileged. Additionally, with our services to SMEs we help Tajikistan with job creation and the expansion of its businesses.
Our majority shareholder, the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM), had developed an SME portfolio and methodology in Afghanistan. We have taken over certain basic practices from this methodology and made various adaptations to suit the Tajik context as the way people and businesses function vary significantly from country to country. Amongst AKAM’s many microfinance organizations around the world we are now regarded as a leader in SME lending. We provide advice and guidance to our partners, and help them with advice and training.
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