|Résumé :||The poor need a range of financial services to cope with shocks, to manage day-to-day transactions, and to grasp business opportunities, among others. To be successful in reaching the poor, microfinance institutions should offer products that meet the poor’s needs. Product design, therefore, is becoming a very important topic. “Behavioral” product design pinpoints the importance of individuals’ behavioral anomalies, such as procrastination behavior and lack of self-control. Financial products are seen as commitment devices to help individuals diverting money from immediate consumption to savings and investment.
This doctoral thesis contributes to this recent research stream by first surveying the literature on product design in microfinance, and then providing an empirical and a theoretical contribution. Precisely, the thesis is structured in four chapters. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are both reviewing the literature. Chapter 1, titled “Product Flexibility in Microfinance: A Survey”, reviews the academic literature on product flexibility in microfinance and offers a categorization scheme of flexible microfinance products. Chapter 2, titled “Innovative Flexible Products in Microfinance”, scrutinizes nine real-life practices covering microcredit, micro-savings and micro-insurance services that mix flexible features and commitment devices. Chapter 3, titled “The Debt Puzzle in Dhaka’s Slums: Do Liquidity Needs Explain Co-Holding?”, examines the use of flexible savings-and-loan accounts by SafeSave’s clients and tests whether the need for liquidity explains why the poor save and borrow simultaneously. Lastly, Chapter 4, titled “Having it Both Ways: A Theory of the Banking Firm with Time-consistent and Time-inconsistent Depositors,” proposes a theoretical model to determine the liquidity premium offered by a monopolistic bank to a pool of depositors composed of time-consistent and time-inconsistent agents.