General Client Protection Pathway FAQ

As with all our resources and initiatives, there is no fee to access the Client Protection Pathway. Only through collective action can we safeguard the stability and vitality of financial services. No single provider can do this alone and we urge global participation from all stakeholders. 


SPTF does rely on membership contributions to maintain our programs. Find out more about our modest membership fees here.

The following disclosure documents can be submitted: SPI4 or SPI OnlineALINUS, the Client Protection Self-Assessment Tool, a client protection external assessment by a third party, a Client Protection Certification, Code of Conduct Assessment, or a Social Rating.

These disclosure documents should not be more than three years old, except for Certifications that can be up to four years old.
Commitment is valid for three years. After that, we will email you to request an updated commitment disclosure.

In this step, FSPs create and implement an action plan based on an assessment towards of their client protection practices. We offer multiple assessment tools, how-to resources, and a database of TA providers who can assist you. Visit this page on our website and click on “Step 2” for all the details. 

FSPs can also apply to a Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility (RIFF) for funding to strengthen their social performance management practices. These facilities exist for Sub-Saharan Africa/Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America and the Caribbean.

Yes, your organization can join! You have six months after joining to submit a client protection assessment. There are several options to choose from when conducting a client protection assessment. This page provides more details.

Smart Campaign published draft digital credit standards in 2019. SPTF has integrated approximately ¾ of them into the updated Universal Standards.The remaining 1/4 of the standards were more theoretical, and for this reason, SPTF did not include them. However, SPTF is currently working with its partners to build on Smart Campaign’s work and continue to identify concrete management practices for providing digital financial services in a way that protects clients.

The Client Protection Standards are integrated into the Universal Standards. FSPs that want to focus more on the client protection portion of SPM may choose to use the Client Protection Standards and the accompanying Client Protection Self-Assessment Tool.

There are 68 ALINUS indicators, and 38 of them are related to Client Protection.

You can do this through SPI online: you can upload a CP assessment to SPI online, and you can download your SPI in excel, which includes the CP indicators.

Yes. The entire CP Pathway is targeted toward FSPs. However, SPTF-CERISE welcomes the support of investors, funders and regulators.

As a funder, you may want to encourage your investees to join this pathway, and maybe also make it a requirement in your loan agreement. You can also sign the Joint Statement supporting the industry’s adoption of the Client Protection Pathway.

Client Protection Certification FAQ

The Smart Campaign closed in late 2020. The last organizations to receive a Smart Campaign Client Protection Certification were certified in April 2021. Ceriseand SPTF have developed a new client protection certification methodology. It is Step 3 of the Client Protection Pathway. For now, it uses the same framework of indicators as the Smart Campaign (172 indicators).

The chart below summarizes the differences between the former methodology and the new methodology. The Gold level is equivalent to the Smart Certification. This document provides additional information. As before, our certification methodology uses the existing Client Protection Standards – which can be also found in the Universal Standards. What is new is that certifications will now be awarded using a tiered system—gold, silver, and bronze—rather than pass/fail (“all or nothing”). We believe this change will encourage a greater number of financial service providers to pursue certification, as different levels of achievement are possible.

The other difference is that the 2-year “check-in” (surveillance audit) is no longer required, and a Certification is valid for 36 months.


Former methodology (Smart Campaign)

New methodology (Cerise + SPTF)

Standards used for evaluation

The Client Protection Standards

The Client Protection Standards


Pass or Fail (anything < 100% was considered a fail)

Three levels of achievement:
Gold, Silver, Bronze

Validity of certification

4 years, with a surveillance  audit at the 2-year mark

3 years
No “surveillance audit”

This document provides details on the requirements for each level of achievement.

Smart certifications are no longer issued, and SPTF and Cerise are now the Certification framework holders. In this new framework, all new certifications are issued for three years and do not require a Surveillance Audit (sometimes called a “check-in”) at the two-year mark. FSPs who were previously certified under the Smart Campaign label (i.e. all certifications issued prior to April 2021) have two options when their certification reaches the the two-year mark: 
1. Instead of a Surveillance Audit, pursue a recertification under the new methodology. This will mean that your certification is extended for three years. 

2. Receive a Surveillance Audit per their original contract. Passing this audit extends your certification status for another two years. After the full four-year term of your certification, your recertification will happen under the new three-year methodology. 

Please contact your preferred certification body for more details, including cost information. This is a list of certification bodies approved by Cerise and SPTF.

Pre-certification is a product that some Certification Bodies offer. It is defined as “an audit prior to the initial certification that generates non-binding findings, without recommending solutions.” The methodologies for these assessments are developed by the Certification Bodies, independently from Smart Campaign, SPTF or CERISE.

FSPs interested in a certification should contact the Cerise + SPTF Approved Certification Bodies to ask for a technical and financial proposal.

Only Certification Bodies (CBs) approved by CERISE + SPTF are entitled to grant client protection certifications. The official list of approved CBs can be found here (select “Step 3”). The CB’s are formal organizations, not individual consultants.

Please contact us if you would like to support our initiative: cppathway@sptfnetwork.org