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Organizational Development: 55 years to 3 years

I love thinking about how systems work (or don’t), how culture is created, and how to make things more efficient. This is why I really enjoy my job at Accion working on organizational development and learning. We are an innovative organization and the head of Human Resources encourages us to always think about how to do things better. Yet, we’ve been around for almost 55 years! We have many great systems in place and established culture. There is still definitely always more to do, but it is very different work than what I am doing here at Grassland. Continue reading


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Wanzhou: The Land of Fire

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Thursday night I walked with Wang Bin and Stella, two friends/coworkers, along the river in Wanzhou. It was about 9pm and it was finally cool enough to be outside. The temperatures averaged around 100 degrees while I was there. It was hot – everything is hot. There is even a myth about two old towers that were built around the river to make sure the dragon that lived in the water never escaped. I believed it. After eating the spicy food for a week I felt like I was a dragon and could spit fire at any moment.

Wanzhou has a little over a million residents, and those residents have seen lots of changes in the area. The Three Gorges Dam led to a large migration of people into the city, and increased the river level so the old part of the town is underwater. The city has also seen a huge uptick in economic growth. Continue reading


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The Importance of Food and Relationships

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The first thing that one of my Accion coworkers asked me when he found out I was going to China was will I buy a funnel? I gave him a perplexed look, and he said “To funnel all the delicious food into your mouth!” I really should have bought a funnel. I am eating my way through Beijing. Much of my planning is around which restaurant and what dishes to try. My coworkers have been amazing with this—they take me to lunch and then plan which restaurant I should go to at night and I ask them for recommendations of dishes. Continue reading


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Thoughts on Chifeng ACCION Microcredit Company

During my stay in Chifeng, China over the last two weeks, I have closely observed the work of ACCION Microcredit Company’s (AMC) loan officers and I have also experienced the daily operation of AMC. I am very impressed by the loan officers and the fresh energy AMC injected into Chifeng’s finance industry. Being the first 100% foreign-owned Microcredit Company in China, ACCION has had to overcome many difficulties.

AMC provides micro and small businesses with non-collateralized loans basing their underwriting on ACCION’s proven methodology of cash flow lending. Loan uses are mainly for businesses, such as working capital and purchases of income generating assets. AMC remains focused on the micro market with loan sizes starting at one thousand Yuan (RMB1,000) for a maximum term of 12 months with both principles and interests being paid back in installment monthly.

AMC’s main advantages in the urban market include flexibility of loan guaranty and customized services. Guarantors do not have to be regular salary earners, as long as they have ability to pay back the loans. Loan officers talk closely to applicants about their family and their business, and they also visit their home and businesses to collect first hand information. They also use every channel, such as friends and business partners, to learn more about the clients. Through these, clients’ month income & expenses, cash flows, personal creditworthiness, and other information can be evaluated and cross-checked.

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Microfinance Superstar: Xiaoqi Yan

CHIFENG CHINA – 8 a.m., I walk into our AMC Hongshan Branch, saying “good morning” to all staff and loan officers. They have already started to prepare for the day’s work; some of them chatting with each other; one or two having Dui Jia and soy milk as breakfast; one guy sketching on the markerboard, where the loan officers keep goals to be accomplished, a poem that motivates their work, and some doodles. Among them, there is one girl, a girl you wouldn’t differentiate from the other loan officers from appearance, but you would notice that she has been moving from desk to filing cabinet, to making phone calls, back to the desk… yet keeping everything on an organized pace. She is Xiaoqi Yan, the superstar I am going to introduce, a girl who is in love with her work and success as a loan officer.

Xiaoqi Yan at AMC Hongshan Branch

Xiaoqi, 28, is the only senior ranked loan officer among all nineteen loan officers at AMC. She has been working at AMC for one year and four months, yet her outstanding performance has brought her over one hundred clients (1/7 of all AMC clients) and almost close to zero delinquency rate. The senior rank has enabled her to being a leader among all nine loan officers at the Hongshan Branch. To motivate the loan officers, the branch started a competition between the female and male loan officers. This morning, August 3rd, just at the beginning of the month, Xiaoqi’s female group is already happy to announce 14 potential deals against the male group’s 7.

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Happy Birthday AMC Hongshan Branch!

CHIFENG CHINA- Today, July 27th 2011, is the first birthday of the Hongshan branch of ACCION Microfinance China (AMC). At the end of the busy day, all staffs at the branch got together to cut cake for their first year of success. When we invited branch Manager Song to tell us about their first year, she smiled with joy.

Happy Birthday AMC Hongshan Branch!

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Client Needs–A Typical Small Business Owner’s Voice

On July 19th, I visited Mr. Sun, the shop owner of a Children’s Wear Shop in Bayan No.4 General Merchandise Market. He is currently our urban individual loan client and his business is in good condition. The interview is based on the questionnaire designed by Karen Lewin, ACCION’s consultant for saving and marketing for Bayan VTB.

He really appreciates Bayan Rongxing VTB’s support in his business. “Without the capital from its loan, I could not grow my business so smoothly. It is extremely difficult to borrow money from other big four state-owned banks and it is also more expensive to borrow from informal channels.”

Now he has four shops within the market building all selling children’s wear, with eight employees. The shop in which we conducted interview is about 100 square meters. He proudly introduces his scale of business to me, “if all his clothes in inventory are listed in a row, it can stretch to 2 kilometer”. Moreover, apart from the apartment he is living now in Bayan, he has an apartment in Dalian City, which is the south of Liaoning Province.

I also asked about banks and services he uses and his experience about them. Apart from his gratitude for Rongxing VTB’s financing help, he also speaks highly of VTB’s excellent service attitudes. He would borrow more from VTB is possible since he is eager to expand his investment in real estate.

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