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> Posted by Ashutosh Misra, Principal Consultant, Interactive Forum on Indian Economy
New modes of payments, such as electronic cards, mobile money, and internet-based payments, are in some cases causing financial exclusion for those who prefer, or are only able to pay in cash. This is the major finding of a study commissioned by the European Foundation for Financial Inclusion (EUFFI) on the impact of new payment systems on financial exclusion in the U.K., France, Italy, Poland, and Sweden.
The report is of interest to India for three main reasons: the Reserve Bank of India’s emphasis on financial inclusion when granting new bank licenses; Indian banks expanding their use of electronic payments and non-branch interaction with customers; the Indian government’s focus on promoting direct electronic transfer of social benefits. The five European nations of the study are smaller than India in size and population, but they’re ahead technologically and in financial services market development. Nonetheless, millions of their citizens are restricted from having a bank account and hence do not have access to many new payment technologies. Also, significant populations are unable to perform transactions using the new technologies or would prefer to use traditional methods. If the new payment systems can be so disruptive there, India has miles to go before electronic payments can become the norm here.
For financial inclusion, access to basic banking services must be complemented by the right to use traditional means of payment, such as cash, if that’s the customer’s desired payment form. The EUFFI study finds that cash is often the only means of payment for those at risk of exclusion, but shows it is becoming harder or more expensive to pay in cash. On the other side of this, many merchants still aren’t able or don’t want to accept cards. An example of this shared in the report is unsuccessful asylum seekers in the U.K. who can get financial support from the government only in the form of plastic payment cards. These cards are credited weekly, and enabled to purchase essential goods from a restricted subset of shops. This inability to pay in cash results in hostile behavior towards asylum seekers in some shops and supermarkets.
> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI
The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”
The Financial Inclusion 2020 project has centered around a set of five roadmaps, each covering a major challenge in reaching full inclusion: financial capability, addressing customer needs, client protection, technology, and credit reporting. At the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum in October, participants met in focused roundtable sessions to talk about moving the roadmap recommendations toward action. In this post we highlight some of the main takeaways from these roundtables.
1. What works? We need evidence! Many of the roundtables dreamed of a clearinghouse of case studies, research, country examples, and other evidence on the effectiveness of different approaches to technology, financial capability, and client protection. Part of the dream was a platform for governments and providers to share and disseminate their experiences.
2. We want metrics. Are our services customer-centric? Do we have effective client protection practices? Do we track complaints? Do we know who is or is not opting in to our services? And are we getting all the data we have into the hands of people who can use it to make our services better?
3. Who’s at the table? The drivers of financial inclusion within governments are not just bank regulators, but telecommunications, insurance, and utility regulators, and many ministries (finance, agriculture, social welfare, education, etc.).
> Posted by Caitlin Sanford, Lanna Lome-Ieremia, and Sameer Chand, Bankable Frontier Associates, Central Bank of Samoa, and Reserve Bank of Fiji
Another version of this post is published on the Alliance for Financial Inclusion website.
Until now there have been few sources of publicly available data about financial access and usage in the Pacific Islands. Although individual central banks are measuring and tracking progress towards financial inclusion, the small island countries in the Pacific region have often been left out of international financial inclusion datasets, such as the Global Findex. The IMF Financial Access Survey captures some key financial inclusion indicators but this does not include all the countries from the Pacific.
The Pacific Islands Working Group on financial inclusion (PIWG) of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion came together this year to define and collect financial inclusion data specifically tailored to the region. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu participated in this data project. While the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) have elaborated key sets of financial inclusion indicators to be used for global comparison, in some instances, individual countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania, and others have crafted broader sets of country-level indicators. This is the first time a broader set of common indicators have been developed at a regional level.
> Posted by Amanda Lotz, Financial Inclusion 2020 Consultant, CFI
On October 28, Alexia Latortue of the U.S. Treasury moderated the opening plenary of the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum featuring two leaders in microinsurance, Michel Khalaf of MetLife and Martyn Parker of Swiss Re. One of Alexia’s remarks at the Global Forum deeply resonates with me today: “The occurrence of a risk event can set a family back an entire generation.” Among other things, she suggested, there are new and emerging risks linked to climate change.
Shortly after the Forum, we saw haunting evidence of this. On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the Visayas region in the Philippines, with the city of Tacloban being the hardest hit. Typhoon Haiyan is a reminder of why we must prepare to face natural disasters. Microinsurance is one form of advance preparation that can prove instrumental in the disaster rebuilding stage.
In a disaster prone country such as the Philippines, where over 41 percent of the population lives on under $2 per day, ensuring greater access to microinsurance could make an enormous impact. In the country’s rural areas, which encompass roughly half of Filipinos and about 80 percent of those living in poverty, agriculture is the primary source of income. Government data from 2009 indicates that poverty among fishermen is at 41 percent, with farmers close behind at 36 percent. Think about the opportunities for providing microinsurance to farmers and fishers, whose livelihoods and families depend on productive land and assets that can be tremendously affected by weather!
> Posted by Véronique Faber, Executive Director, Microinsurance Network
Three months ago, Jeremy Leach from Bankable Frontier Associates rightly asked in this same forum: “Microinsurance: Can the Cinderella of Financial Inclusion Join the Global Ball?” This question rang a bell with many practitioners and advocates in this field. Microinsurance is often the last service listed when talking about financial inclusion tools. However, credit, savings, and insurance work more effectively in combination rather than in sequence. In stimulating and maintaining financial inclusion, it is crucial that those with a limited income have a safety net preventing them from falling into poverty when hit by a crisis, catastrophic or lifecycle related, and become more resilient against future risks.
Since Leach’s blog post, the sector has been granted three wishes (by its fairy godmother or perhaps as a result of good common sense). If these wishes are used well, insurance for low-income people will be an integral part of any global financial inclusion strategy from now on.
The first wish came in the form of visibility and awareness raising. The opening panel at the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum had representatives from MetLife and Swiss Re debating how financial inclusion factors like income growth, new technologies, and government prioritization play out in the context of insurance. For the rest of the conference, insurance was on every participant’s mind when thinking about the possibilities of what can be achieved in the next seven years. This is important because insurance is essential for sustainable development and financial inclusion.
> Posted by Aparna Dalal and Craig Churchill, International Consultant and Team Leader, Microinsurance Innovation Facility, International Labour Organization
New impact evidence shows that microinsurance products can provide financial protection, reduce vulnerability, and improve access to critical services for low-income households. And with innovations in product and delivery, more people now have access to microinsurance. The sector grew from an estimated 78 million clients in 2007 to 135 million in 2009, to 500 million in 2012. Does this mean that microinsurance has finally arrived?
The answer depends on where you look. While we have seen breakthroughs in certain countries (such as India, the Philippines, South Africa, and Colombia), glaring geographic disparities in coverage persist, with vast deserts without coverage amid oases of success. Common challenges facing countries with low coverage include inappropriate regulation, lack of capacity within the insurance industry, lack of infrastructure for distribution, limited data, and insufficient knowledge of insurance among low-income households.
These challenges vary with market maturity. For instance, insurers in a country in the nascent stage of development might have limited capacity to offer mass products beyond credit-life and they often have to develop marketing strategies and distribution infrastructure from the ground-up. They must find ways to reach persons who are unfamiliar with insurance. In contrast, insurers in growing markets are looking for new distribution partners and developing more customized products to address specific client needs.
A systematic approach is needed for countries to address these challenges and accelerate the development of insurance markets. This approach includes two core elements: 1) catalyzing stakeholders and 2) evolving products.
> Posted by Elizabeth Davidson, Financial Inclusion 2020 Consultant
What’s Financial Inclusion 2020 going to do next? Since the conclusion of the FI2020 Global Forum just a few weeks ago, we’ve gotten this question a lot. For me, the more interesting question is, “What are you going to do?”
Over 140 Global Forum participants answered this question by filling out a postcard with their personal commitment to advancing financial inclusion.
Here’s a sampling of what financial inclusion leaders plan to do to advance to full financial inclusion by the year 2020.
“Partner with government and the development community to not only launch scalable and relevant products but also build usage to ensure true financial inclusion.”
“Foster stronger collaboration through best practices between developed and developing countries.”
Increasing collaboration emerged as a huge theme, with over one-third of respondents referencing their commitment to increase work with other financial inclusion stakeholders and more than 20 participants identifying collaboration as the key component of their commitment. For us, this is exciting: collaboration is a key tenet of FI2020. We believe collaboration among different kinds of actors will be a big part of the solution to reaching full financial inclusion.
> Posted by Bob Bragar, Principal, Strategies for Impact Investors
The Investing in Inclusive Finance program at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion explores the practices of investors in inclusive finance. Across areas including risk, governance, stakeholder alignment, and fund management, this blog series highlights what’s being done to help the industry better utilize private capital to develop financial institutions that incorporate social aims.
Baku, Azerbaijan doesn’t look like a place that needs microfinance, at least not at first glance. Oil money is coursing through the streets. The shops include Tiffany’s, Cartier, Baccarat crystal, and every expensive fashion designer that New York and Paris have to offer. New apartment buildings line the road. This post-Soviet republic is transforming very fast.
But this is not the whole story. There is still a need to expand financial inclusion, despite the government’s efforts to do this. According to MicroRate’s report, “The State of Microfinance Investment 2013”, Azerbaijan is one of the largest microfinance markets for international investors. The 45 percent annual growth in Azeri microfinance is one of the fastest in the world. The Azerbaijan Microfinance Association (AMFA) reports that Azerbaijan’s microfinance portfolio, including via banks, is approaching USD 1 billion.
One group that is doing very important work, however, seems to be excluded from the party. These are the rural credit unions that are supporting agricultural finance.
By every measure, these credit unions are doing exactly what Western social investors want. They are committed to agriculture, and helping small farmers keep their holdings. Client protection is deep in their DNA, even if they are not familiar with the Smart Campaign. Rather than clients, they have members. Their governance is a cooperative structure, designed to serve the needs of these members. Interest rates are relatively low, aimed at sustainability rather than large profits. Loan amounts are small, designed to meet the farmers’ business needs.
Last month, I was invited to meet the Azeri credit unions at the invitation of Credit Implementing Agency, which is an umbrella institution that provides loan capital and support. Starting early in the morning, we drove for hours away from Baku to meet the credit unions on their own turf and have them explain their situation in their own words. We met in the simple structure that serves as the headquarters of one of the larger credit unions.
> Posted by Dave Grace, Managing Partner, Dave Grace & Associates
This week I received my self-addressed postcard from the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum reminding me of my personal commitment to help ensure the safety of consumers’ savings and rights as they join the financial system. My first reaction was how slow the post is, but on deeper reflection I recognized that the postcard arrived just at a time when I needed a reminder of my commitment.
In addition to the new connections made at the Global Forum, two comments stood out for me; one was rooted in the past and the other in the future.
Remembering the Past
When Michel Khalaf from MetLife described the company’s roots as an insurer for the working class and the legions of agents who went door-to-door collecting weekly premiums of $.05 or $.10 and dispensing financial advice, I instantly understood something important about my grandfather. Until then, I had just thought of him as a MetLife agent in the steel belt towns of the northeastern U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. He left school at age nine to help the family make ends meet when his own father prematurely passed away. He first worked shoulder-to-shoulder in the coal mines with many other immigrants. His math skills and ability to work across ethnic groups enabled him to leave the mines and become a top agent for MetLife. He knew firsthand how dangerous the mining work was and how a temporary or permanent injury could be a huge setback for these vulnerable families. Once the Great Depression hit and people could not access their deposits in banks, many of his clients turned to my grandfather for financial help. He had some liquidity and became a de facto deposit insurer, paying people what he could and in the process becoming a larger creditor of the illiquid banks.
Anticipating the Future
While Michel Khalaf’s comments helped me piece together my own family history, what stood out more was the collective prediction by attendees in London that the most important story in the next five years will be the presence of a “bank run” on mobile money.
> Posted by Center Staff
You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but last week, the CFI Blog published its 1,000th blog post. We started this blog in September 2008 in conjunction with the Center’s launch, as a forum for discussion, analysis, and even debate on the many issues facing financial inclusion. A lot has changed since 2008. The past few years have seen a shift in focus toward wider financial inclusion, moving beyond microcredit to include services such as savings and insurance. Technology, through mobile banking, big data, and other developments has made greatly expanded access to financial services. Client protection has become more firmly embedded into the microfinance industry. And yet, the quality of services and effective regulation continue to be as important as ever before. Going through our archives, you can see these shifts before your eyes. As this blog goes on, in addition to being a platform for sharing the latest developments and insight, it has become a historical record of how the microfinance industry has developed and changed.
This blog couldn’t be successful without the input of our many guest bloggers over the years who have leant their insight and expertise. If you ask us, it’s this range of outside expertise that makes this blog successful. We thank all of you who have written for us over the years and all of you who have shared your thoughts by commenting on our posts (5,557 comments and counting!).
Feel free to browse through our posts throughout the years via the “Archives” drop-down menu on the left-hand side. Here’s to the next 1,000!…
All-time most-read blog posts:
5 Great Books About Microfinance and How the Poor Use Money (August 23, 2011) by Yvonne Chen
5 Countries Where Microfinance Works (February 18, 2011)
Nicaraguan Microfinance in Crisis (November 5, 2009) by Sergio Guzmán
Interest Rates 101: APR vs. EIR (June 8, 2010) by Courtney Piper
Microfinance vs. Financial Inclusion: What’s the Difference? (February 27, 2013) by Susy Cheston and Larry Reed