Back in 2016, as I started my first job as a Credit Analyst for Oikocredit, a social impact investor based in the Netherlands, my pre-existing knowledge about microfinance was limited; however, I was truly interested in the potential of the sector for economic development. Given that I was in charge of analysing loan requests from microfinance institutions (MFI), I quickly got accustomed to the financial reality of an MFI. Yet, I was still missing the “big picture” aspect that would allow me to deeply understand these institutions, how they’re built, how they work and whether the institutions I analysed were suitable business partners.
Building upon the opportunity that my company was financing trainings for employees, I started to look for a course that would provide me with the concrete knowledge I was missing. Asking colleagues and browsing on the Internet, it soon became clear that the Certified Expert in Microfinance (CEMF) course offered by Frankfurt School Development Finance e-Campus was the best on the market, especially for professionals given the e-learning feature, downloadable content, etc. I was obviously not the only one to have come to this conclusion as new members, with a banking background, joined my team at that time and signed up in the course as well; looking to gain the microfinance knowledge they were lacking in their former positions.
I enrolled for the course about 6 months after I started my job. By that time, I had acquired some understanding of the sector, but the course quickly provided me with the background knowledge I was missing before. Specially two learning sections really stood out to me: on one hand, the Risk Management section helped me greatly in refining my risk and financial analysis skills of MFIs. On the other hand, the Social Performance section helped me acquire a stronger sense of what practices are acceptable or not in microfinance but especially what signs to focus on whilst analysing the social performance of MFIs, which was also a part of my job.
Finally, the tests at the end of each chapter that participants have to pass in order to access the next unit as well as the specific assignments to take during the course were great ways to apply our newly-gained knowledge to practical cases and ensure that we had well integrated the learned content. In my case, I could also apply this knowledge to my everyday work when assessing MFIs’ loan requests and analysing their overall performance. It gave me relevant reference points when calculating ratios but also considering social performance aspects such as acceptable levels of borrowers per loan officer for example.
More than a year ago, I successfully took the final exam and since then, I often come back to the course material when I need to remind myself of a specific ratio or of the structure of an effective marketing strategy for MFIs for instance. I would recommend this course to anyone, professional or student, willing to gain a strong knowledge basis in Microfinance as well as a practical understanding of the sector.