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CORPORATE GOVERNANCE CASE STUDIES | CAMBODIA

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Amret Co.

is a leading microfinance institution in Cambodia serving micro, small and medium enterprises and low-to-middle-income populations with a focus on rural areas, agriculture and district and provincial cities. Amret was launched in 1991, and obtained a license to operate as a deposit-taking MFI in 2009. Today, it provides a wide range of loan and deposit services to Cambodia women, farmers, small businesses, and households
charters with terms of reference to guide the decision-making process. The composition of the Board required some diversification and recruitment of independent members with strong commercial banking acumen and a deep knowledge of the local market. Additionally, Amret was looking to improve the way it handled related party transactions and establish clear policies to protect minority shareholders and eliminate conflicts of interest.
As one of the top three MFIs in Cambodia, with a nationwide presence across 197 districts, Amret provides financial products, including solidarity credits, individual credits, SME loans, savings accounts and term deposits, to more than 400,000 clients through 156 branches, with more than US$ 350 million in outstanding deposits and more than US$ 668 million in outstanding loans by 2017.

WHAT DID THEY CHANGE?

In March 2014, IFC evaluated Amret’s governance capabilities. Even prior to IFC’s involvement, Amret’s board and executive leadership demonstrated their strong commitment and adherence to good governance beyond compliance with local regulations. The IFC evaluation aimed at helping Amret further enhance the board’effectiveness, optimize management controls, improve disclosure policies and practices, and develop provisions on shareholder’s rights.
Its goal is to provide a wide-range of tailored financial solutions for low income people, including micro, small and medium enterprises, in order to improve the living standards of the population and contribute to the economic and social development of Cambodia. Amret is a subsidiary of Advans SA, a global network of microfinance institutions across 9 countries. Advans supports Amret in refining its governance practices and improving its organizational effciency. Since 2013, Amret has pioneered loan products in the AgriFin and Fintech space. It rolled out mobile financial services and was awarded grant funding from the UN Capital Development Fund to expand women’s financial inclusion through digital finance. Over the years, Amret has adapted its strategy to minimize risk through concentrating its lending activities on areas less affected by over-indebtedness, which has in turn helped maintain a good loan portfolio quality and improved profitability. Management advanced on its already impressionable CG improvement program by reinforcing governance practices and raising the bar to align with international standards. Authorities were better clarified between the Board and Management. Prior to IFC’s assessment, Amret established an Audit Committee, chaired by an independent director who was nominated by minority shareholders, which met 4 times annually to review internal and external audit functions and ensure compliance with local laws. Additionally, more independent directors with commercial banking, risk management, and local market experience were recruited to improve the Board’s composition and effectiveness of the committees. The company also went above and beyond to strengthen its internal control and risk management systems with the establishment of a Risk Oversight Committee which oversees four management committees that assess credit, operational, strategy, and asset & liability risks.

WHY CHANGE?

Amret was committed to the principles of good governance as demonstrated by the strong risk and control frameworks that were embedded in the organization prior to IFC’s assessment. The Board was engaged in the stewardship of the company which contributed to a strong management structure across the organization. In addition, the company was in compliance with applicable regulations for MFIs in Cambodia. Although Directors were engaged in setting strategy, there was not a formal authority matrix or formally documented board
Furthermore, the Board codified its CG policies, developed remuneration and evaluation procedures, and made an effort to eliminate conflicts of interest with respect to related party transactions and procurement practices with technical vendors. With a strong CG foundation, Amret was a benchmark for other financial institutions in Cambodia and perceived as more transparent and investor-friendly. This culminated in receiving A- ratings from international rating agencies including MicroFinanza and MicroRate.
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Amret’s Operations Area

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