Banks are not known for going door-to-door to find out how they are doing, so Colombia’s
Bancamía’s employees caught people off guard when they started showing up on front stoops.
The bank, a division of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, had more than 1,100 workers fan
out across Colombia during the pandemic to register people for the Colombian government’s
stimulus program, Solidarity Income. The strategy allowed Bancamía to register 270,000
people – more than one-quarter of all registrations – bringing them into the financial system for
the first time.
Bancamía, at the same time, accelerated its digital transformation to continue to reach lowincome entrepreneurs. The bank went the extra mile during the crisis for its target population, setting itself apart to win the Microfinance Institution of the Year award.
“We remained committed to Colombians during the crisis, creating new products for our
customers, and using our expertise and knowledge to reach out to new customers so that no
one is left behind,” says CEO Miguel Angel Charria.
Colombia has an estimated 10 million microentrepreneurs and people who are self-employed.
Bancamía had 1.47 million customers, around 320,000 with active loans, as of June 2021. The
bank’s loans average around $1,100 and usually have to be repaid between 12 and 18 months.
Bancamía rolled out a digital strategy in 2020 that was capable of adapting to the national
reality, which not only included the pandemic but also a long national strike against tax reform
and other government measures that closed down large parts of the country for weeks in the
first half of 2021.
Colombia’s ranks 13 internationally in per capita deaths from Covid-19. It follows Peru and
Brazil in the region. It has recorded 127,067 deaths from the virus as of mid-October 2021.
According to the Colombian government, the strike in April and May cost the country around
$1.5 billion in losses.
The bank relaunched in digital format “Dreaming Together,” a programmed savings account
that had been successful with its client. It was added to the Bancamía’s mobile banking
applications and had immediate positive results. Charria says that close one-third of the
220,000 people in the savings program switched to the digital version.
The bank also launched a long series of products, most digital, under the umbrella of the state
program, known as PAD, to provide financial assistance during the crisis.
“We created tools that were easy to access, lowering apprehension to technology and allowing
microentrepreneurs to become digital users who can access financial products and services
without leaving home,” says Charria.
The numbers speak for themselves. In July 2020, Bancamía had 108,428 digital clients. The
number more than doubled to 221,902 in July 2021. Digital transactions reached 857,000 per
month, four times greater than the last month prior to the pandemic.
Bancamía has also strived to address the gender gap. Of the bank’s clients, 54% are women
and 53% of current loans were made to women.
“Women tend to start at a disadvantage, but they save more and are better at paying their
loans. We decided to create special products to meet the needs of women,” says Charria.
The bank has launched three insurance programs, one that covers the loss of merchandise and
costs $0.50/month and a second that covers breast and uterine cancer. It costs $1.20/month.
The newest one is for maternity, covering four months leave. It was inaugurated in October
2021 and costs $0.70/month.
“These products have been extremely successful for one reason – we created them after asking
women what they wanted. They identified the moments of greatest vulnerability and told us
what they needed. It is the best way to work,” says Charria.