Photo Germán Enrique Paredes Medina

Distance Training Promotes Financial Inclusion in Peru



Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Jul 26, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version

In Peru, there is still some distrust and resistance towards banking from a large portion of the population, especially in rural communities. This reluctance to accessing banking services is largely due to the long period of time in which this population was excluded from these types of services and its benefits.

Although the number of banking services is still low, noticeable growth has occurred in recent years, mostly due to micro-financial institutions that have made significant efforts to make progress in rural areas. Caja Arequipa is the largest Peruvian microfinance institution and is the leading institution of the ‘Cajas Municipales del Peru’ system, as well as an undisputed market leader in the Peruvian microfinance sector. Compared to the country’s banking system, Caja Arequipa ranks in 6th place, only surpassed by the five largest banks in Peru. Being in this leadership position has brought its challenges, forcing them to implement management models that enable them to maintain their position as a leading institution and benchmark in the sector.

Germán Paredes, head of Human Development and Training within Caja Arequipa’s Human Resources Management team, spoke with Blackboard to share some details of his team’s internal processes, and the work with two of its strategic allies, Blackboard and Seidor. Germán has been leading the team responsible for the management of training programs and staff development for over two years. During that time, the team has strengthened training processes by adapting themselves to company staff.

Peru’s Financial System Overview

According to Peruvian newspaper La República, in 2016, only 40% of Peruvians had a means of electronic payment. Additionally, the newspaper states “Peru is the country with the lowest banking levels in the region.” Additionally, Germán points out that only 28% of Peru’s economically active population uses banking, which represents an enormous growth potential opportunity for the microfinance sector, as it has contributed the most to this process.

From 2009 to 2018, the microfinance sector has been growing steadily, which is directly correlated to the country’s decline in poverty, which decreased from 60% to 20% over that same period. A large portion of the sector growth can be attributed to Caja Arequipa for being the most important microfinance institution. 

Major HR Improvements with Blackboard

“Among the greatest achievements in terms of HR Development is the significant increase in internal survey results relating to work conditions, which is worth noting,” Germán explains. The survey measures staff satisfaction regarding workplace conditions. In terms of the assessment, staff satisfaction in terms of professional training and development opportunities offered by the company has increased by 14 points, from 2016 to date. Those who know what it takes to improve staff satisfaction levels would argue that this is an important achievement, a result of the efforts to provide top-level training programs aligned with the institution’s strategic approach.

The Advantages of Strategic Partners

On a regular basis, Caja Arequipa conducts programs relating to company values and philosophy through the Blackboard Open LMS platform (My Campus), something that many entities could find useful. In addition, situational and adaptive leadership programs have been developed, as well as performance management programs for high-performance teams or talent mapping. In terms of credit and risk management, programs were designed and implemented through strategic partnerships with top-level Peruvian universities in order to strengthen core concepts about microfinance principles.

To this end, Caja Arequipa turned to Seidor, a leading company in the development of technology and software-based solutions and a Blackboard partner, in order to implement training programs, develop courses and interactive content, and provide all the necessary technical support. Through Seidor’s guidance based on Caja Arequipa’s needs, both parties worked to create an organizational academic structure to create training management through a four-dimensional framework:

  1. Management Skills Programs: Aimed at leaders and designed to enhance leadership
  2. Update Programs: For all staff members whereby topics are defined according to strategic guidelines and budget
  3. ‘Training-School’ Programs: Created to train credit analysts and service representatives
  4. Onboarding Program: Aimed for all new employees

In terms of content, and according to the current academic structure, Gérman shares that they seek to “develop competencies that leaders need for people and change management, as well as to enhance customer service excellence across all lines of staff.” All this is possible through its alignment with Caja Arequipa’s service philosophy, ‘¡Encájate!’ (‘Fit in!’), focusing the design of the programs on providing best practices and methodologies that streamline and make processes more flexible.

Course and Content Development

The process consists of gathering information about internal client needs in order to define course development roadmaps. According to Germán, gathering such information has been a positive process. Once this is carried out, the company decides on the best way to tackle each internal customer request based on its intended purpose. This is done as courses may have different objectives such as reinforcing staff knowledge on specific subjects, or raising awareness on company philosophy, or about new developments regarding internal processes.

Seidor always oversees the process and advises Caja Arequipa’s team on the development of interactive content for each topic, based on course objectives and mobile features. As a result, activities and tasks that are uploaded onto the platform turn out interactive, agile and didactic. Additionally, Seidor also provides continuous technical support for both Germán’s and Caja Arequipa’s peace of mind, demonstrating how easy it is to work with pedagogical and technological partners through Blackboard. 

Adapting Contents and Technologies for Every Need

Courses are always aimed to bridge technical gaps or to develop competencies throughout all company areas, in accordance with the strategic guidelines and the specific needs gathered by the survey. Additionally, providing course users with positive reinforcement after course completion, as well as recognizing their behavior and needs related to their work function within the company is, perhaps, most important. After all, the main priority is to provide all staff members with the necessary knowledge and development, so the messaging has to be adapted for the benefit of the end users.

To this end, Caja Arequipa identified that about 70% of its commercial employees, including credit analysts and service representatives who establish direct contact with clients, correspond to the young population commonly known as ‘Millennials.’ Taking this into account, the emphasis on mobile technology is even more appropriate. On the one hand, employees who work on the field need to take their tools everywhere they go, and on the other, they have an almost intuitive way on how to use them.

In terms of the use of technology and its adaptation to the digital environment, Caja Arequipa has integrated innovative tools that allow it to reach a workforce of almost 4,000 employees more effectively and efficiently. For example, the My Campus platform was developed with a strong focus on mobile devices in order to take Caja Arequipa’s training online, according to employee needs and demands. Similarly, training course contents also follow this logic and are designed to be interactive, agile and user-friendly.

Due to staff technology use habits, interactive and quick feedback is also an essential component to the success of the training programs. Forums, chats, and even WhatsApp groups keep employees informed, making it possible to maintain a close and trusting relationship while encouraging participation in discussions related to course topics. This strategy was developed by both Caja Arequipa and Blackboard and Seidor’s advice as strategic partners. But, more important than deciding who gets the credit, it is more worthwhile to mention that this type of collaboration is indeed possible in a work environment full of tools and possibilities, where ideas can be easily and quickly implemented.

Working with Mobile Platforms

The mobile platform was introduced for Credit Analysts who are field executives, with the idea that they could receive training anytime, anywhere, as they are regularly on the field working, whether it be advising and evaluating clients or selling Caja Arequipa’s products and services. Nowadays, they no longer need to be near an agency or office to log in and take their courses, they can connect from their smartphone devices on the go.

According to Germán, the institution’s improvement on their Information Technology (IT) infrastructure will turn the use of mobile devices for these types of purposes into the main learning and communication vehicle. In order for this to take place, they must continue to develop short, quick, and user-friendly courses that allow them to meet learning objectives effectively. In addition, they have begun to use an ingenious modular system to segment information by modules, in-keeping with the goals mentioned above, in order to better meet employee needs and keep them connected.

The Role of Caja Arequipa in Peru’s Digital Transformation

“Without a doubt, the future is now, and we must recognize that. What we do is part of that digital transformation process, which is already underway within our institution,” says Germán. Caja Arequipa already has an application in place for commercial executives, which allows them to enter customer data, and perform credit assessments and/or disbursements from their smartphone devices.

For a company like Caja Arequipa, this work is a commitment to the personal and professional development of its staff, so this year they will begin addressing aspects such as the implementation of individual development plans (IDP), as well as the implementation of responsive methodologies to allows Germán’s team, as well as the institution, to continue advancing its digital transformation and innovation processes.

Photos by: AFP José Sotomayor