Certification Services

After a decade of close collaboration to raise awareness and incentivize the adoption of responsible practices among inclusive finance providers, the Smart Campaign is coming to an end. Inclusion [Social Ratings] will continue offering Smart Certifications until April 31, 2021, date of the total withdrawal of Smart Campaign from the market.

As licensed Smart Certification Body, and based on its extensive experience in social performance and client protection, Inclusion [Social Ratings] has developed its own evaluation criteria closely aligned with the Smart Campaign Client Protection Standards, with the purpose of filling the gap left by the Smart initiative.

1. ISR Client Protection Certification

The ISR Client Protection Certification is a leading-edge certification offered to the microfinance sector to recognize financial institutions that meet the highest standards of quality in customer service and care.

Inclusion [Social Ratings] draws on the Inclusion team's extensive experience in the microfinance and development fields and considers previous developments in industry-established standards such as the SPTF’s Universal Standards of Social Performance Management, the Smart Campaign’s client protection principles and Social Performance and Impact Rating (SPIR) of Inclusion.

During the development process, numerous industry stakeholders, including microfinance networks, microfinance institutions, regulators, financial consumer experts and investors, were consulted to adjust the certification to current industry challenges.

Why seek an ISR Client Protection Certification?

- Build reputation by earning formal recognition of meeting the highest quality standards in customer protection.
- Attract donor and social investors funds.
- Identify opportunities for improvement in customer protection.
- Stand out as a leading pro-client MFI.

How long is the ISR Client Protection Certification valid?

The certification is valid for 5 years, with monitoring conducted on annual basis and a surveillance visit conducted every 2 years.

Not yet ready for a Certification?

If your organization is not yet ready to perform a certification, you can opt for a preparatory pre-certification. This remotely conducted assessment enables organizations to create an improvement roadmap and prepare for the certification process.

Can I train my staff on Client Protection Principles?

Inclusion [Social Ratings] has developed a training program for those MFI employees wanting to contribute within their organizations to the consolidation of appropriate client protection practices and thus increasing the chances of obtaining the certification.

Need more information?

For more information feel free to download the methodology report below and contact us at info@inclusionsocialratings.org


Download our Methodology

2. Smart Campaign Client Protection Pre-Certification

The Smart Campaign pre-certification is a tool for institutions to examine their implementation of the Client Protection Principles. The internal review identifies strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately opportunities to enhance its practices around client protection practices to prepare for Certification.

A pre-certification is not required before Certification, but it does prepare your institution for the process.

3. Smart Campaign Client Protection Certification

Smart Campaign Certification is an independent, third party evaluation to publicly recognize financial institutions that meet adequate standards of care in how they treat their clients.

It enables financial institutions to demonstrate adherence to the industry’s Client Protection Principles. It contributes to a more stable financial inclusion industry by encouraging practices that aim to ensure prudent, transparent and respectful treatment of clients.

Who is eligible for Smart Certification?

Financial institutions that provide services to lower segments of the market and/or financially excluded populations are eligible for Smart Certification. This includes institutions of any legal form, including, but not limited to banks, finance companies, NGOs and credit unions.

How to become a Smart Certified institution?

In order to be Certified a financial institution must meet all 25 standards based on the following 7 Client Protection Principles:

1 - Appropriate product design and delivery
2 - Prevention of over-indebtedness
3 - Transparency
4 - Responsible pricing
5 - Fair and respectful treatment of clients, staff ethics, and non-discrimination
6 - Privacy of client data
7 - Mechanisms for complaints resolution

How to get Smart Certified?

If your institution wishes to become certified, you must apply through one of Inclusion [Social Ratings] Regional Offices and take the following steps:

- Preparation: complete a desk review in which you share key documents with the ISR Certification team.
- On-site visit: after the submission of the required data, conduct a field visit to interview Financial Institution’s Director and management, branch staff, clients and other relevant stakeholders.
- Analysis: after the field visit the Certification team will analyze the primary and secondary information and prepare the audit report.
- Report finalization: finalization of the Output report, conduction of the Certification Committee and communication to the Financial Institution of the compliance or not with the client protection standards

Please note that certifications can be carried out as stand-alone visits or in conjunction with a Financial Sustainability Rating (“FSR”) or a Social Performance & Impact Rating (“SPIR”).

ISR encourages combining certifications with ratings; this is much more cost-effective than seeking certifications or ratings separately.

Results and output:

- Conforms: If the institution passes every standard the institution will receive a Smart Certification and the process is completed.
- No conforms: If the institution does not conform with all the standards, the organization will enter on a four-month progress phase to put in place corrective measures to meet all the standards.

Validity of the Smart Certification:

The Certification is valid for four years with a mandatory Surveillance Audit after two years to confirm the institution’s adherence to the Client Protection Principles.

Why apply for a Smart Certification?

- To obtain international public recognition
- To distinguish your institution as pro-client
- To help create a safer and more sustainable world for investors, financial service providers and clients alike
- Attract investment
- Give confidence to investors, donors, financial service providers and clients alike

Download our Methodology