Monday, August 22, 2011

Passport Series: Ecuador: Part 3: The Loan Officer

This month’s Passport Series focused on Ecuador, thanks to your votes on Kiva’s Facebook page! Ecuador is a South American country with dynamic ecosystems, which are home to the Amazon Rainforest, Andean Mountain Range, Galápagos Islands, and Pacific Coastal region. Last week, we examined Ecuador’s microfinance sector. In this last Ecuador installment we look at the important role of Loan Officers.

Loan Officers have a difficult and labor-intensive job. They have a long list of responsibilities including marketing, education, loan disbursement and repayment collection, all of which usually involve traveling long distances to meet with clients. One of the first challenges loan officers face when working with a new client is providing effective education. As experienced Kiva participants know all too well, the concept of Kiva can be somewhat confusing to explain. Anyone can be a lender anywhere in the world, small loans are given through Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to people who are otherwise deemed unworthy of credit, and it’s all done over the Internet! Explaining all of this to someone who may not be familiar with microfinance in general, and who may have never actually used the Internet, can be a daunting task.

One Loan Officer in particular has mastered the difficult task of explaining how Kiva works to his clients. Pedro Salvatierra works in the Cuenca office of ESPOIR, a Kiva Field Partner in Ecuador. Pedro is the head Loan Officer in the office and was recently visited by Kiva Field Support Specialist, Lindsey Freedman.

Lindsey explained to me that, as she sat with Pedro, she was “totally blown away with the level of dedication of the Loan Officers in Cuenca.” She watched as he patiently explained how Kiva works to a group of six “very suspicious” ladies.

Pedro explains Kiva to a prospective borrower.

It’s important to understand that, to many of our borrowers around the world, being on the Internet can be a foreign, and sometimes scary, prospect. Pedro slowly walked the borrowers through each step of the process, and demonstrated how well he knows his clients by tailoring his message to their specific needs and concerns. He even had a printout of another borrower’s profile with him so they could see first hand what their profile will look like to the rest of the world. After all their questions and concerns were addressed, each borrower felt very comfortable signing their paperwork and posing for their picture. With his patient approach and clear explanations, Pedro exemplifies the “client first” model that we strive for at Kiva.

Borrower posing for her profile picture.

We would like to thank Pedro and all the Loan Officers we work with for the amazing job you do everyday to help us strive to alleviate poverty around the world.

To read about more of our Ecuador borrowers and Kiva Field Partners go to, and stay tuned for next month’s Passport Series.