Mathilde BAUWIN, R&D Project officer at ADA, opened the session by introducing the panel members. She explained that ADA was one of the first co-financers in the ATLAS data platform, presented in this session. The platform is managed by MFR and offers microfinance reporting, benchmarking and data consolidation based on centralised data from FSPs on pricing, client protection, social and financial performance. This promotes transparency in the sector. Investors and international networks can use ATLAS to screen, benchmark, monitor and aggregate their portfolios while FSPs can simplify their reporting.
Currently, ATLAS covers 138 countries, with data from 3,596 FSPs and close to 7 million data points. Data providers include Rating agencies, CERISE, Smart Campaign, Investors, Networks and FSPs. To ensure the quality of the data, they are validated by a third party or self-reported and checked for consistency. Data can be shared nominatively and anonymously with subscribers and are not publicly available. Bauwin shared the data reliability methodology used to give data a reliability score, which subscribers can use to filter data. Subscribers include networks, investors, standard setters, researchers and regulators.
Next, Lucia SPAGGIARI from MFR/ATLAS demonstrated the versatility and flexibility of the ATLAS platform, where subscribers can tailor indicators used for reporting. Indicators include financial, social, client protection, governance, environment, and gender. Spaggiari demonstrated how subscribers can use the ‘Custom Search’ page of the platform to select indicators. Subscribers can filter the data for these indicators, for example per region, country, FSP, year, source, reliability, delivery model or lending methodology. She added that subscribers can choose to benchmark the data using similar filters, for example to compare performance of one FSP to the region it operates in. Spaggiari walked the participants through the different options to adapt the graphs generated per indicator to the needs of the subscriber, also demonstrating that the reports flag those indicators that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Spaggiari stressed that ATLAS can support investors by collecting data from investees, providing trend and benchmark analyses at the level of an individual investee and at portfolio level. This allows investors to monitor the performance and quality of their portfolio compared to other FSPs in the same countries of operation, as well as compare the portfolio with other investment opportunities.
Then Spaggiari demonstrated other pages available on ATLAS. Subscribers can obtain analytics on financial performance, profitability and sustainability, portfolio yield and quality, productivity asset structure, liability, and equity structure. She added that the platform provides some APR data and analytics, adding that these data are the most difficult to get and not fully complete. These data can also be benchmarked. Data on profitability and costs are available to investors, for example on portfolio yield, operating and financial expenses on assets. Regarding client protection, ATLAS allows subscribers to benchmark performance of an organisation to the region, broken down by principles of the standards. These data are modelled on audit data from CERISE SPI4.
Alain LEVY from BNP Paribas next shared his experience as one of the clients using ATLAS data. He emphasised how useful the platform is for all stakeholders in microfinance to increase transparency in the market and save time in reporting. He welcomed the flexibility of ATLAS and MFR in adapting the tool and indicators to BNP Paribas’ specific collection and reporting needs. Levy explained that BNP Paribas outsources its data collection from investees to ATLAS. He mentioned that in addition to the consistency test ATLAS performs, investors can choose to add an accuracy test on the data collected. Although this comes at an added cost, the data will receive a higher reliability scoring.
From the data collected from investees, ATLAS generates a spreadsheet that fits the template from BNP Paribas. The tailor-made consolidated report enables BNP Paribas to make their quarterly reporting. Levy appreciated how ATLAS developed a tool for BNP Paribas that combines reports on the investor’s portfolio with an analysis of individual investees.
Levy demonstrated how ATLAS includes data on how BNP Paribas performs compared to the overall market or with a different benchmark. This allows the investor to make investing or financing decisions. He invited all investors to join the valuable platform to increase transparency in the market. Moreover, ATLAS helps MFIs to avoid extra workload for reporting thus making it easier to work with multiple investors.
Bauwin added that ADA conducts its own data collection internally and uses ATLAS to provide a benchmark and determine ADA’s position in the market. For ADA’s TA programmes, the organisation uses ATLAS to consolidate, centralise and manage data collected by ADA. ADA also uses ATLAS to track trends and performance of its MFIs. Moreover, she appreciated how the platform is still evolving. For example, the addition of SPI4 scoring in the platform allows ADA to track the evolution of both financial and social data and the performance of its MFIs. She concluded by stating that the platform is the only one available with data on the whole industry and that to ensure it is representative she welcomed other investors and networks to share more quality data.
The moderator opened the floor for questions. One audience member asked what the strategy is to increase data provided by FSPs to gather more data points on the platform and access meaningful benchmarks. Spaggiari replied that data providers have access to free reporting and a benchmark overview. Depending on whether they share data nominatively or anonymously, they can compare their data to a regional or global benchmark for any indicators on which they share data.
On a question regarding the source for APR data, she added that MFR provides 95% of APR data as this has a high reliability. She explained that ATLAS is open to receive APR data from as many sources as possible, for which the reliability will be reviewed and scored. The platform is also open to self-reported data, as ATLAS accepts any data to ensure transparency, leaving subscribers the option to filter on reliability scores. To obtain more information on reliability and availability of data, Spaggiari referred to the ATLAS platform. This gives an overview of how much data are available per country, including transparency, anonymous or nominative, as well as a catalogue of indicators available.