Role of Microfinance Loan Officers in developing entrepreneurs: A case study of Sri Lanka
Although studies have researched the role of microfinance institutes (MFIs) in developing entrepreneurs, the actual linchpins between the institute and entrepreneurs are Microfinance Loan Officers (MLOs). Their conventional role is to collect the debt, but today MLOs play multiple roles in developing entrepreneurs. However, that role has not been sufficiently researched in the microfinance literature, leaving a gap to be addressed. This paper explores that role in a qualitative study using primary data collected from entrepreneurs who are clients of a large MFI in terms of the portfolio and the client base. Data were collected through three focus group discussions with entrepreneurs in groups of five. Thus, the sample size is 15 entrepreneurs from the chosen MFI and the unit of analysis is MLOs. The study found that MLOs play key yet multiple roles in developing entrepreneurs at different stages of entrepreneurial development process, from initial surveying on-site, assessing creditworthiness, providing credit advice, facilitating training and arranging a flexible approach for entrepreneurs under critical circumstances. Based on those findings the study makes recommendations.
Keywords: Microfinance Loan Officers, developing entrepreneurs, Sri Lanka