rethinking microfinance through behavioral design


Sophia Tareen C'17

Nadia Tareen W, C'15

April 2015

Why access to finance matters 


Allows smoothing of consumption


Long-term asset accumulation


Helps manage risk 

But banks lack an incentive to work with the poor. 

Low-income individuals have volatile income & little to no collateral

Frequent, small transactions are costly for banks



Provides non-collateralized loans

with a focus on micro-entrepreneurs

microcredit theory:

"Accountability, mutual trust, creativity and participation"

-Grameen Bank, Bangladesh

Microcredit primarily targets these 2 Millennium Development Goals

Not all investments are

"golden-egg-laying geese"

Microcredit is not always as transformative

as portrayed in the media.

Leads to business creation

But not an increase in household income

Borrowers want funds for everyday consumption


Case Study: SEED Program

Green Bank of Caraga

Commitment Savings

  • Clients specify savings goal


  • Restricts withdrawal access until goal is reached


  • Deposits are made physically or automatically from checkings account


Moderate economic growth

Only 26% use formal financial services

80% have no deposit savings account






SEED program yielded 

318% increase in savings


Simply offering the option: 82% increase in balance in one year

Benefits of Commitment Savings


Counteracts "present bias" by preventing temptation spending

Less risky compared to informal saving methods

More inclusive approach to eliminating poverty

Personalization and ownership over experience



  • Conventional wisdom


  • Distrust in banks


  • Microsavings programs are a liability for MFIs and are not permitted in some countries


  • Evidence-based design


  • Understand cultural context


  • Introduce regulation and possibly incentives for banks and MFIs

Scaling Up Commitment Savings 

The Impact of the Microsavings Model

Inclusive   Sustainable   Evidence-based   Empowering


I4A Case Competition: Tareen

By Sophia Tareen

I4A Case Competition: Tareen

First place winner of Internal Wharton Ideas for Action International Development Case Competition 2015 in coordination with the World Bank.

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