BFA Global, MetLife Foundation, and RPA co-created the OPTIX project in 2015 to help financial institutions better understand the lives and needs of low-income customers and offer a portfolio of products and tools that improve their financial health. Financial institutions worldwide are striving to tailor solutions that improve the lives of low-income households and also make good business sense.

Under the project, BFA Global worked with four socially-driven microfinance institutions and cooperatives: SAJIDA Foundation in Bangladesh, Banco W in Colombia, Acreimex in Mexico, and CEP in Vietnam.

For customers, the result is greater financial security and more options to efficiently manage their financial lives and grow their incomes. For financial institutions, it has been a way to create better portfolios of financial products to ensure that their customers will stay with them longer as they benefit from multiple products and build a trusted relationship with them.

In order to achieve this, the OPTIX project combined data analytics, behavioral science, customer-centric product design and a thorough understanding of low-income customers’ lives to help financial institutions develop more relevant, cost-effective financial products and tools to improve financial health.

Since they began from different starting points, each institution took different pathways to achieve this transformation. They focused on improving customers’ financial health by testing approaches in three core areas:

  1. Future-proofing through digital innovation
    As part of the project, these four financial institutions worked to become resilient and ready in the face of change and innovation in the digital age – to become “future-proof.” The four OPTIX partner institutions learned to leverage technology to become more efficient, build tools that provide real benefits for their customers, utilize data to make better-informed decisions, and deliver faster and better products and services more conveniently
  2. Future-proofing product performance and value
    Microfinance institutions often assume that certain products will be “good” for customers, leading them to offer simplistic cookie-cutter products without much diversification or tailoring for market segments. But from our research, we recognize that when products are not designed with hard data or customer research, they are not always relevant resulting in low uptake and high operational costs.
    OPTIX partner institutions were offering various products but not designing and combining them to maximize customer lifetime value. While the institutions have access to easy and “free” insights into client behaviors, they were not utilizing the data for product development. OPTIX supported institutions to use evidence from data analytics, business-case analysis, and customer and staff research to develop evidence-based and customer-centric product combinations.
  3. Future-proofing using behavioral insights
    Financial institutions often design new products and then feel surprised when customers do not find the product appealing and do not use it. Behavioral science can help financial institutions future-proof by shedding light on these mysteries. Insights from behavioral science s can reveal how customers approach their financial lives and explain how they understand and utilize financial products.

OPTIX helped its four partner institutions use behavioral concepts to put customers at the center of their thinking, improve their offerings, and create nudges toward better financial health. But OPTIX went beyond nudges, it pointed to important product design choices informed by behavioral insights that could lead to the desired improved behavior among customers. The OPTIX team designed and helped implement changes to make sure financial solutions improve customers’ resilience, help them gain control and create more opportunities for their lives.

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