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> 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 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 Monique Cohen, Independent Advisor, Founder and Past President, Microfinance Opportunities
Addressing client needs, delivering appropriate products, ensuring consumer protection, and building people’s financial capabilities were themes repeatedly heard during FI2020. Taken together they represent important progress in the discourse around financial services for the poor. Not so long ago the mention of clients was limited to statistics; in particular, numbers of accounts. If you were in luck this data was differentiated by gender.
This new recognition that our clients are active not just passive players in our industry marks an important step forward. The concept of active clients emerged in numerous sessions during the FI2020 meeting. Alexia Latortue, formerly of CGAP, began by noting that designing products that would help clients mitigate shocks and loses is very important. For the poor to cope effectively with risk, physical presence, timeliness, and proximity to financial services is vital for enabling access. In one of the final sessions of the meeting, Innocent Ephraim from Vodacom echoed statements by others noting that listening to the clients is critical. Not doing so can be costly. He had been involved in launching a product based on what the provider thought was useful. The product bombed, forcing his team back to the drawing boards and to the identification of a product which made sense to the consumer because it reflected both their contexts and priorities.
While the client agenda in financial services is not new, it has only recently gained real traction. Despite the new thinking on this topic, the industry is still searching for common ground about what to do to become more client focused. Currently the stakeholders are struggling to define a common phrase book; our lexicon of many of the terms continues to be a work in progress. Everyone has her/his own meaning for financial capability and financial inclusion. The result can be confusing.
> Posted by Rani Deshpande, YouthSave Project Director, Save the Children
Two big financial inclusion gatherings in Europe a few weeks ago turned up the volume on bringing more people into the formal financial system — safely, meaningfully, and fast. With big trends poised to change the financial inclusion landscape, how can we harness them to expand savings opportunities for young people?
In London, the FI2020 convening brought together a who’s-who of leaders from the worlds of politics, banking, and microfinance as a culmination of the 18-month “roadmap to financial inclusion” process led by CFI. Discussions here centered largely on the biggest disruptive trends ensuring that, to paraphrase one speaker, financial inclusion will change more in the next 7 years than it has in the last 30. The comment reflects the general tone of the conversation, which was one of impatience or perhaps anticipation at this “inflection moment” created by the convergence of technological development and market dynamics.
According to CFI’s “Mapping the Invisible Market” study, the income of the bottom 40 percent of the world’s low- and middle-income economies will grow from $3 trillion to $5.8 trillion from 2010 to 2020. At the same time, other panelists pointed out that access to information (through mobile phones), the use of big data, and customer-centricity are creating game-changing new ways to reach and serve poor customers. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, one panelist urged the audience to “stop ‘innovating’ and start listening to clients” or to keep innovation “brain-dead” simple so that it can easily scale (critical given generally thin margins for BoP services). Usage, as opposed to access, was also highlighted as the new frontier of inclusion, with almost 50 percent of adults possessing accounts but only 7 percent in the developing world using them actively (> 2 transactions per month).
Kate McKee, Senior Advisor at CGAP, reflects on key issues raised during the FI2020 Global Forum’s panel discussion on ‘Why Financial Inclusion is More Important Than We Ever Knew,’ ending with an exciting prediction market from the panelists.
In this panel, which began with an emphasis on behavioral economics opened by Sendhil Mullainathan, co-author of the recently-published book Scarcity (reviewed on this blog by CFI’s Sonja Kelly here), who focused on how the reality of scarcity translates into a “bandwidth tax” on people who constantly live in poverty. Research by Sendhil and others has documented how the constant worry and distraction of living with too little – what Sendhil and his co-author Eldar Shafir refer to as “tunneling,” with its intense focus on making ends meet day-to-day – ultimately, affects poor people’s ability to make good decisions. Basically, this growing body of research shows that when people are in a situation of scarcity, they are not as smart, not as able to resist temptation, and are less likely to be able to make and stick to a plan, as compared to themselves in a time of less scarcity.
This scarcity framework and evidence has potentially powerful consequences for financial inclusion. The panel that followed focused on how scarcity, the bandwidth tax, and tunneling affect the relevance, uptake, and usage of financial services by lower-income people. Tine Wollebekk (Vice President of Telenor Financial Services and Board Chair of Tameer Microfinance Bank, the sponsor of Easypaisa in Pakistan) and Kamal Quadir (Managing Director of bKash in Bangladesh) reflected on the experience of these two fast-growing mobile money service deployments, including insights about customers’ underlying demands and how the mobile wallets and other services are designed to meet them, how to make the offerings intuitive and simple, and how to earn trust from customers new to formal finance. Bill Gajda (Global Head of Strategic Partnerships, Visa) rounded out the panel by bringing in findings from deep consumer research that Visa has supported in additional developing countries, as well as experience with different business models and customer interfaces including cards.
Entry products need to be ‘in the tunnel’
One of the key insights was that the entry product needs to meet a really immediate need. It needs to be ‘in the tunnel’ of what the customer is focused on to meet their day-to-day needs. Obviously mobile telephony is firmly in the tunnel virtually everywhere in the developing world. Person-to-person money transfer has also passed the “tunnel test” of rapid uptake in an increasing number of markets – Kamal noted that he felt the company had reached an important tipping point when “bKash” had become a verb commonly used across Bangladesh. Tine made the point of needing excellent execution and recruiting the right kind of agents that customers will trust, in order for customers not to have extraneous worries that would prevent them from really being able to make decisions.