About BFA and the Financial Diaries

The Financial Diaries and Its History

The Financial Diaries began with research into the lives of poor households in South Africa, Bangladesh and India. These insights were captured in The Portfolios of the Poor by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch,  Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven, published in 2009. At the time, the Financial Diaries was an innovative methodology, and the tool continues to be a unique way to obtain multi-dimensional qualitative and quantitative data on the lives of low-income households. Since this unprecedented three-country study, the Financial Diaries has increased in popularity as a research method.

BFA has since executed several Financial Diaries projects in nine different countries. These projects include:

  • South Africa and India in 2012-13 under the Gateway Financial Innovation for Savings (GAFIS) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Kenya in 2012-13 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya as part of the GAFIS project;
  • Mexico in 2013-15 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the GAFIS project, support from the World Bank, and from MetLife Foundation for the dissemination of results;
  • Rwanda in 2012-13 Financial Diaries “lite” funded by Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) and VISA;
  • Small Business Financial Diaries in South Africa; and
  • Smallholder Financial Diaries in Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania in 2014-15 with funding from CGAP.

In addition to these, the Financial Diaries methodology has been used by researchers in other countries and by institutions wishing to better understand their clients. Some examples include the US Financial Diaries, among others.

During the course of each study, researchers visit a relatively small sample of households fortnightly for six months (for the “lite” methodology) to one year and gather all information about their financial transactions during that time. But the research does not stop there. This rich cash flow data is supplemented with qualitative questions to understand the rationales or motivations behind the spending patterns or decisions to save, borrow or invest. Given the intensive methodology, the Financial Diaries projects are not representative of either the countries or the communities in which they are conducted. But the thousands of data points that are collected with each study offer a deep rather than broad view, and present tangible seeds or directions for new policy or product innovations.

About BFA

BFA is a global consulting firm specializing in the development of financial services for low income people around the world. Our approach is to seek out, create and implement solutions to the challenges faced by low income people in managing the financial matters that underpin their lives.  We purposefully partner with cutting-edge financial and nonfinancial institutions that touch the lives of low income customers. In creating solutions, we integrate our deep expertise in customer insights, business strategy, new technology and growth-enabling policy & regulation. Founded in 2006, our clients include donors, investors, financial institutions, policymakers, insurers and payment service providers. BFA has offices in Boston, New York and Nairobi. For more information, please visit: www.bfaglobal.com.

  • “The research provides evidence of the sophistication with which poor people think about their finances.”

    The Economist