A special report on national and international award winners wouldn’t be complete without a look at the much-lauded VisionFund, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. The Post’s special reports editor, Moeun Nhean, spoke with VisionFund’s CEO, Chee Chin Hoe, about how the fund has grown over the past decade.
Tell us about VisionFund’s background and goals.
VisionFund Cambodia is a licensed microfinance institution with the mission to improve the lives of children by offering small loans and other financial services to families who need them. Our work empowers our clients to grow successful businesses which subsequently enable their children to grow up with improved health and education. Working in partnership with World Vision, we are committed to long-term change which will unlock potential for future generations.
As of January 2014, VisionFund has over 1,000 staff who are operating in 85 branches offices in 23 provinces and municipalities with a loan portfolio of over $62 million with more than 192,000 active clients, and impacting nearly 630,000 children. With an average loan size of around $320 per client, VisionFund Cambodia believes that they are able to cater to the poorer segment of the population.
Today, VisionFund Cambodia considers itself the top social-focused MFI in Cambodia.
When was VisionFund Cambodia established and when did it start providing financial support to people in the Kingdom?
VisionFund was officially established in 2003 with its registered name of VisionFund Cambodia. It received the MFI licence from the National Bank of Cambodia in March 2004 and received a permanent licence in 2007.
Prior to 2003, it started as a credit program under the Micro-enterprise Development (MED) project of World Vision Cambodia, which provided credit services in areas where the Area Development Programs were implemented.
How have your services and products developed over the years?
From the inception of its credit programs with World Vision Cambodia to becoming a microfinance institution, VisionFund has been providing financial services to communities by giving small loans to poor clients as capital to improve their business and living standards, which therefore would also bring a positive impact for their children to have better nutrition, clothing and access to education.
VisionFund has also been working collaboratively with many development partners by creating many other social loan products for the well-being of communities, such as the Loan for Water and Sanitation Hygiene (Water Filter Loan & Latrine), the Loan for Environmental Protection (Solar Energy Loan), Education Loan, the Loan for Victims of Natural Disaster and the Loan for HIV/AIDs Affected and OVC Client.
In order to provide a safety net for our clients, our loans also come with a free benefit which allows for outstanding loans to be written off upon the death of a borrower. In this way, the next of kin need not be burdened with the outstanding debt of the deceased.
VisionFund also provides consultations and financial education to customers about using the loans more efficiently, such as how their income should be more than their expenses, how to reduce unnecessary costs and advising clients to have a specific savings goal. Through this they can use their cash to cover the cost of their children’s education in the future, or to invest or deal with any emergency.
Moreover, in response to the needs of communities, VisionFund Cambodia launched its Local Money Transfer product in 2010 as a supplementary financial service to its credit service. The service provides a safe and convenient service at an affordable price across its branch networks in Cambodia.
In February 2011, VisionFund Cambodia was granted an MDI (Microfinance Deposit Taking) licence from the National Bank of Cambodia. Soon after the licence was granted, VisionFund Cambodia began collecting deposits from the public. VisionFund is currently serving two types of deposit products: term deposits and passbook savings accounts.
Has VisionFund Cambodia received any awards since its founding?
VisionFund has received many types of international awards since we established our services here, such as from Oikocredit South East Asia, the Pricing Transparency Award 2013 and the Global Micro Entrepreneurship Award from the United Nations Development Programme.
Could you tell us more about these awards? In what way are they endorsements of VisionFund’s services?
VisionFund has received many international awards and much recognition.
We won the MIX S.T.A.R Award 2013 (Socially Transparent And Responsible) for completing MIX’s social performance desk review process and successfully meeting all 2013 S.T.A.R requirements. We received two awards from Oikocredit Southeast Asia to selected partners who have consistently exhibited exceptional institutional accomplishments in social performance. We were given the Pricing Transparency Award 2013 from the international organisation MFTransparency for clear, accurate and comparable data of the product and pricing transparency, marking us as a responsible MFI.
One of our earliest honours was the Top Award by CGAP on Financial Transparency in 2006. The very first was in 2005 when VisionFund obtained the Global Micro Entrepreneurship Award from UNDP for six clients.
How many categories of awards has VisionFund won?
Over our 10-year history, VisionFund has won awards in nearly 10 differences categories.
What was VisionFund’s initial investment in Cambodia and how much has it grown since then?
VisionFund started with a very small capital investment back in 2003, with about $760,000. Currently we have about $18.5 million in capital investment.