A Song and a Wheelchair Ramp for a New Bank

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF 16, Ecuador

What do a song and a wheelchair ramp have in common? If you are a corporate lawyer in Ecuador, you may know the answer. Everybody else, please read on.

Only recently I learned that my host and Kiva´s partner organization Banco D-MIRO has its own company song! It combines a memorable piece of poetry with a rather inspired composition. To quote some of its infectious text:

Somos tu familia, tu lugar – Somos el apoyo de tu andar – Somos credibilidad y porvenir. – Banco D-MIRO, siempre contigo – Siempre un amigo, en quien confiar. – Banco D-MIRO, somos tu apoyo – Siempre generando oportunidad.

This means:

We are your family, your home – We are the support along your way – We are credibility and future. – Bank D-MIRO, always with you – Always a friend whom you can trust. – Bank D-MIRO, we are your support – Always creating opportunities.

When I expressed surprise at the existence of such a song, I was told that all self-respecting companies in Ecuador have their own. The one of D-MIRO received its world premiere performance last June, on the occasion of the organization´s legal transformation from a private foundation into a bank. The shaky excerpt above was recorded at the official inauguration celebration that took place here in Guayaquil on September 9th this year.

Of course, the company song itself has had little to do with the actual decision to turn D-MIRO from a private foundation into a bank. Fundación D-MIRO Misión Alianza was founded in 2006 by the Norwegian NGO Mission Alliance as a separate entity with a focus on microcredit services. The decision to transform the foundation into a bank was taken by the Mission Alliance which now is D-MIRO´s principal shareholder. According to Knut Harald Dobbe, D-MIRO´s Director of Social Responsibility, the board members of the Mission Alliance took their decision for the following reasons:

A poster in a branch, advertising the new service of life insurance ("Seguro de vida") for all clients.

a) More clients can be served and receive better services: the magic words here are microsavings and savings accounts. Legally, Fundación D-MIRO was not able to provide its clients with a savings account, even though savings have been identified as a key factor to keep microcredit customers out of poverty. In Knut Harald Dobbe´s words: “Savings spur development and poor people demand saving services.” While savings accounts will probably be introduced next year, recently implemented new products of Banco D-MIRO include different types of borrowers´ insurance and discount loans for disabled and/or HIV-positive clients.

b) Improved governance through the inclusion of the national bank authorities as a stakeholder, resulting in better controls and more disciplined internal management.

c) More funding flexibility: In the past, D-MIRO has depended almost entirely on international funding. According to Knut Harald Dobbe: “Recent international events (financial crisis) as well as an uncertain political situation in Ecuador make international funding very vulnerable and expensive due to country risk premiums as well as taxes.” In addition to accepting clients´ savings deposits and using them to give out loans, Banco D-MIRO is eligible to receive more national funding which, in Ecuador, is often provided at lower-than-average rates. That said, nothing will ever beat Kiva funds which are provided to all Kiva partner organizations at a zero-percent interest rate.

The brand-new wheelchair ramp built at Banco D-MIRO´s HQ

In other parts of the world, overly tight regulations have had a detrimental impact on microfinance institutions and their clients. Yet,  in the estimate of Knut Harald Dobbe, the more stable and tight regulations for banks in Ecuador are going to work as a clear advantage for the country´s youngest bank, Banco D-MIRO.

One of the first regulations that were realized by Banco D-MIRO was to build wheelchair ramps for all its fourteen branches in and around Guayaquil. There can be no doubt: at Banco D-MIRO change is in the air. A song and a wheelchair ramp are just the beginning…

Emmanuel M. von Arx is a Kiva Fellow working with Banco D-MIRO in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Please stay connected toBanco D-MIRO by becoming a fan, check out its partner page on Kiva, and make a loan to one of their clients.

About the author

Emmanuel von Arx