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> 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 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 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 Center Staff
After eight programs spanning over 500 participants from roughly 100 countries, we are proud to announce that the annual executive education program jointly run by Harvard Business School (HBS) and Accion is now accepting applications for 2014. The program will take place April 21-26, 2014 at the HBS campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This year, the program has a new name. It is now the HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance. This name change confirms a shift in course focus and approach that has been underway for some time, from an exclusive focus on microfinance to a broader financial inclusion scope.
Today’s financial inclusion landscape is changing rapidly, as new entrants, disruptive business models, and deeper understanding of client needs all challenge conventional wisdom. It is an exciting time, with new possibilities for reaching more people with an increasing array of financial services. For leaders steering their organizations through this landscape, the pace and magnitude of change may look overwhelming. In this program senior financial service providers will benefit from the guidance of some of the world’s best business minds to better understand the possibilities and the pitfalls of a more complex financial services marketplace. Policymakers, regulators, and investors will find it valuable to get a closer look at how the industry is evolving in countries around the world.
> Posted by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign
Why does the Microcredit Summit Campaign wholeheartedly support the goal of “Finance for All by 2020?” Because we see it as an important step in reaching the larger goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
From October 9 to 11 we held the Microcredit Summit in Manila on the theme “Partnerships against Poverty.” Delegates of the Summit drafted and approved the Partnerships against Poverty Summit Declaration, listing the principles that we will follow to insure that microfinance works as a worthy partner in the movement to end extreme poverty. The opening commitment of the declaration states:
First, we commit to putting the extreme poor first. Their voices must be heard in our movement, and they must be full participants in the process of improving their lives and our services. They are not only our clients, but also our biggest resource.
To better reach and serve the poorest and most vulnerable populations, we will ensure that we include women, children, the elderly, the disabled, refugees, the LGBT communities and members of cultural and religious minorities.
Achieving “Finance for All” means that we must develop financial products and services that meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The organizations partnering with the Microcredit Summit Campaign have committed themselves to work with governments, mobile network operators, payment providers, and others to help design and test these products.
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.
> Posted by Microfinance Opportunities (MFO)
At the FI2020 conference in London this week speakers and participants used the term “financial capability.” But there is no one, clear definition of the term, which begs the question: what is financial capability?
At MFO our focus is on financial capability development, so we think it is important to have a definition that can be translated into practical action on the ground, while also being consistent with the research literature on capability development, and actually making sense to other stakeholders who work on this issue as well.¹ This blog is MFO’s (humble) contribution to the effort to establish a working definition. In our minds, it is the following:
Financial capability is the combination of attitude, knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy needed to make and exercise money management decisions that best fit the circumstances of one’s life, within an enabling environment that includes, but is not limited to, access to appropriate financial services.
Put more succinctly: Financial capability is not just what you know, but whether you have the willingness, confidence, and opportunity to act.
This definition provides more depth and breadth than the familiar, traditional idea of financial literacy, with its more narrow focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development.² Of course, to be capable, a person needs to know about beneficial money management practices, such as tracking one’s money or saving. In addition, people need the skills to be able to put that knowledge into practice, such as recording income and expenses in two columns to help track money, or keeping a marked envelope where she saves money for a particular purpose. Read the rest of this entry »
> Posted by Center Staff
The FI2020 Global Forum in London gets underway this Sunday with a pre-Forum side meeting on financial inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs). This client-centric start feels like a fitting precursor for an event to expand financial inclusion.
Financial inclusion requires that financial services meet the unique needs of all clients, especially the needs of the most underserved and vulnerable client groups. Sessions throughout the Forum reflect this key tenet. In addition, there are side meetings on the Financial Capability Roadmap and the Consumer Protection Roadmap, focused on moving these roadmap principles and recommendations to action. These and the other three financial inclusion roadmaps were developed through a consultative process that collected and incorporated the perspectives of specific client groups.
Among Forum participants are representatives of various client segments – such as PWDs, women, the elderly, youth, rural populations, and migrants – to help raise awareness of their unique needs and assets. Here’s a collection of pertinent statistics for financial inclusion on these client segments:
- 1.8 billion of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24
- 87 percent of youth are concentrated in the developing world
- About half the world’s youth report being economically active
- 38 percent of young adults have an account compared to over 54 percent of older adults
- In 1950, globally, 1 in 20 people were elderly. By 2050, it will be 1 in 5.
- In 2000, only 6 percent of people in less developed countries were over 65 years old. By 2050, that number will grow to 20 percent.