The Banking with the Poor Network (BWTP) is Asia’s microfinance network of organisations providing or supporting innovative, appropriate and demand-driven financial services for the poor through efficient and sustainable organisations.

The Network is an association of a diverse range of microfinance stakeholders committed to improving the quality of life of the poor through promoting and facilitating their access to and use of sustainable financial services.

An overview of BWTP’s 25 year history

In 1990, the Foundation for Development Cooperation’s (FDC) Board of Governors initiated FDC’s first program, Banking with the Poor (BWTP), intended to demonstrate the efficacy of linkages between commercial banks on the one hand, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and self-help groups (SHGs) of the poor on the other, as a means for extending financial services to the poor on a sustainable basis.

Since then, the BWTP Network has emerged and become the largest regional microfinance network in Asia, unique in its diversity of membership – comprising NGOs, SHGs, commercial banks, central banks, microfinance networks, non-bank financial institutions and cooperatives.

Seminal research conducted in the 1990s included Best Practice in Banking with the Poor, The Role of Commercial Banks in Microfinance, Getting the Framework Right: Policy and Regulation for Microfinance in Asia, and The Role of Central Banks in Microfinance in Asia and the Pacific. Subsequent research and publications targeted member needs and explored opportunities and innovation in areas such as remittances, ICT, e-banking, risk and disaster management, post-conflict situations, HIV/AIDS, financial innovation for the poor, and renewable energy.

Over the years, BWTP evolved from an action research and advocacy program into an association of diverse but like-minded microfinance stakeholders keen to improve the quality of life of the poor by facilitating access to and use of financial services through linkages between financial sector institutions, NGOs and SHGs.

More recently, the BWTP Network has convened the biennial Asia Microfinance Forum, which became the preeminent microfinance conference in the Asia region. The significance of this event was recognised in 2008 by one of Vietnam’s most senior officials who said that whilst the Asia Microfinance Forum was a regional event, “it produced more benefits for Vietnam’s microfinance industry than the last 10 years of technical assistance from the World Bank and IFC.” A heartening endorsement. In 2015, the Citi Foundation, the Foundation for Development Cooperation and the Banking with the Poor Network launched a major new initiative, the Asia-Pacific Financial Inclusion Summit, consolidating two leading forums, the Citi-FT Financial Education Summit and the Asia Microfinance Forum, to create a new platform that reflects the integration of capability, access and other key elements that deliver impact and scale in inclusive finance.

The BWTP Network has often been at the forefront of general thinking in the microfinance industry – from early identification of the bankability of the poor, to the encouragement of linkages with commercial banks, to efforts to bring a broad-base of stakeholders together under one umbrella, to the broad challenge of financial inclusion, to digital finance, the BWTP Network has been making meaningful contributions to the millions of clients served by its members in Asia as well as to the world’s microfinance community more broadly.