Dimensions and Dynamics of Clientship in the Microfinance Sector: Evidence from Sri Lanka

  • Ganga Tilakaratna

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis analyses the dimensions and dynamics of clientship in the microfinance sector in Sri Lanka with a special focus on multiple clientship. It examines the extent of different dimensions of clientship and how they have changed between 2006/07 and 2009/10, based on an original framework developed in this thesis. It further explores the reasons for households to borrow and save with multiple financial institutions and the implications of multiple borrowing and multiple saving on households and on microfinance institutions (MFIs). The research is based on mixed methods and uses both primary and secondary data sources. The findings reveal that MFI clients are heterogeneous in terms of financial services utilised and the number and the types of financial institutions accessed by them. The majority of MFI clients are multiple clients and the level of multiple clientship has increased significantly between 2006/07 and 2009/10, with the majority of clients accessing a combination of MFIs and commercial financial institutions (CFIs) like commercial banks. The findings reveal that the microfinance sector and the formal financial sector, that are conventionally believed to serve distinct segments of the market, have converged over time, catering to the financial needs of a broad group of clients. The factors that have contributed to such a high level of financial access and increasing convergence between MFIs and CFIs in Sri Lanka are also examined in the thesis. The research finds that multiple borrowing among households is driven by both promotional and protectional needs, though for the majority of households, it is driven either entirely or at least partially, by promotional needs such as income-generation activities. By contrast, multiple saving among households is driven by a combination of reasons rather than a single reason. One of the key reasons for the widespread use of CFIs among MFI clients is to access pawning facilities. Such services are not available from most MFIs, and are largely used as a strategy to deal with emergency financial needs among lower income households.While the high level of financial services in Sri Lanka should be lauded, debt levels among households, particularly among multiple borrowers have increased and some of the key MFIs have experienced deteriorating portfolio quality and weak financial performance in recent years, bringing concerns to the microfinance sector of the country. The findings stress the need to monitor multiple borrowing and to strengthen the performance of MFIs, to enable them to better face the rising competition and multiple clientship in the sector, and to ensure sustainable access to financial services by all.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Hulme (Supervisor) & Miguel Nino Zarazua (Supervisor)


  • Microfinance
  • Clientship
  • Multiple borrowing
  • Multiple saving

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