Banks and other financial service providers sometimes use agent networks instead of traditional branches to reach more customers at a lower cost. Agent networks may comprise an established distribution network, such as post offices or retail chains, or be built from independent, small-scale traders and other retailers. Agents often are able to conduct basic financial transactions, such as withdrawals, deposits, money transfers, and payments on behalf of banks, depending on existing rules and regulations.
Agent networks have several advantages over branch networks: agents often live or work close to clients, so they typically are familiar with the community, are trusted by clients, and are able to acquire and educate new customers. Agents that are part of an agent network earn a portion of the transaction fees, and can benefit from increased foot traffic in their businesses.
There are, however, several challenges: A successful network needs adequate volumes of transactions and revenue flow. Agents need comprehensive and on-going training and must have sufficient liquidity on hand to satisfy demand. It is also necessary to monitor and update technology and provide support if systems break down. Finally, agents are vulnerable to being robbed, so they need to take steps to ensure their own safety.
Governments in many countries are still developing and refining their regulatory oversight of agent networks, many of which are in their early stages. Agent networks are evolving along with the rapidly changing financial inclusion landscape, and experience to date in several countries shows that they hold significant promise for extending financial services.
What can you find in this Topic Hub?
Curated by FinDev editors, this Topic Hub offers you access to key resources contributed by organizations around the world who work on the topic of agent networks for microfinance and financial inclusion. Our latest blogs and publications on this topic are featured here (in the Resources Tab above), and you can find a collection of papers, case studies and guides to explore further. When there are upcoming webinars, events and recent news on this topic, they will be featured in the Topic Hub as well, so make sure to come back regularly for the latest on this topic. Finally, we’ve selected some key additional resources, which are listed on the right here, where you can learn even more about this topic.
Do you have a resource on agent networks that should be included on FinDev Gateway?
This how-to webinar recording introduces low-cost practical approaches and tools, such as geolocation and data maps, that FSPs can use to address the proximity gap.