Top 10 microfinance institutions: A primer

By Eliza Villarino, Devex

Although the practice can be traced back centuries, microfinance as we know it is commonly credited to the movement started by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus in the 1970s. And that movement continues to grow, as donors and civil society alike emphasize the importance of financial inclusion — or providing affordable financial services to the poor and disadvantaged sections of society — in the developing world.

There are three sources of microfinance services: formal institutions like rural banks and cooperatives, semiformal ones such as nongovernmental organizations, and informal groups including money lenders. Women and small entrepreneurs benefit the most from microfinance.

The biggest microfinance institution is BRAC in Bangladesh. The country’s Asian neighbors have also widely adopted the practice and play host to some of the world’s largest MFIs.

Devex ranked the top 10 MFIs in terms of staff size. The below list also includes information on active borrowers and gross loan portfolio. Check out the Devex jobs board for career opportunities with these and other groups.



Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Founded: 1972
Staff size: 44,306
Number of borrowers (2011): more than 5 million
Gross loan portfolio: $646 million


2. Grameen Bank

Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Founded: 1983
Staff size: 25,283
Number of borrowers (2011): more than 8.3 million
Gross loan portfolio: $939 million


3. SKS Microfinance

Headquarters: Hyderabad, India
Founded: 1998
Staff size: 22,733
Number of borrowers (2011): more than 7.3 million
Gross loan portfolio: $925 million


4. ASA

Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Founded: 1978
Staff size: 21,298
Number of borrowers (2011): more than 5 million
Gross loan portfolio: $531 million


5. Compartamos Banco

Headquarters: Mexico City, Mexico
Founded: 1990
Staff size: 13,298
Number of borrowers (2011): 2.3 million
Gross loan portfolio: $840 million



Headquarters: Hyderabad, India
Founded: 1996
Staff size: 10,000
Number of borrowers (2011): more than 1.5 million
Gross loan portfolio: $281 million


7. Bandhan

Headquarters: Kolkata, India
Founded: 2001
Staff size: 9,754
Number of borrowers (2011): 3.8 million
Gross loan portfolio: $733 million


8. Vietnam Bank for Social Policies

Headquarters: Hanoi, Vietnam
Founded: 2003
Staff size: 8,900
Number of borrowers (2011): 8.5 million
Gross loan portfolio: $4.9 billion


9. Spandana Sphoorty Financial Ltd.

Headquarters: Hyderabad, India
Founded: 1998
Staff size: 8,328
Number of borrowers (2011): nearly 4.2 million
Gross loan portfolio: $778 million



Headquarters: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Founded: 1993
Staff size: 7,340
Number of borrowers (2011): 272,300
Gross loan portfolio: $1 billion

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