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> Posted by Rosita Najmi

Every fall, PopTech convenes an eclectic mix of thought leaders and visionaries in Camden, Maine. This year, Bhagwan Chowdhry (member, CFI’s Faculty Council) and Rosita Najmi  (CFI Program Manager) will be among the 700+ who join the 15th annual celebration for the intellectually engaged. You can participate from your computer and for free via simulcast.

PopTech is a unique innovation network — a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines, who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges. PopTech is known for its thriving community of thought leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences, and deep media and storytelling capabilities.

PopTech’s mission is to accelerate the positive impact of world changing people, projects, and ideas. This is achieved by creating transformational experiences that showcase the ideas, trends, challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future. PopTech fosters breakthrough, multidisciplinary collaborations that help individuals, companies and organizations work together to change the world. Participating in PopTech offers a firsthand glimpse of the future, and a chance to influence innovation.   Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Rosita Najmi

The following is a continuation of an earlier blog post available here:

“Save Steady. Dream Huge.” is the tagline of San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College Program. Currently, students at nearly 40 schools (and by 2012 district-wide) automatically get a college savings account at Citibank, with an initial $50 deposit made possible by the City and County of San Francisco. The children and their families can make contributions to this deposit only account in person, by mail, or online as frequently as they like, in small or large quantities, up to $2,500 per year.  Among other incentives to encourage savings is a match of the first $100 saved, and more incentives are forthcoming.

Once the student graduates from high school, s/he can apply the savings towards tuition, books, and other education-related expenses for (public or private) college, community college, graduate school, or other kinds of training programs. Foreign institutions may also be eligible. A public-private-partnership among the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office of Financial Empowerment, the Department of Children Youth and Families, the San Francisco Unified School District, EARN, CFED, the San Francisco Foundation, the New America Foundation and Stanford University created this head start to financial inclusion and savings.

The SallieMae Fund also has a similar program, which since 1992, has been building excitement about college in young students and already reached 70,000 students. Its Kids2College program seeks to “Open Doors to Higher Education” and starts with middle school students.

Such a head start to financial citizenship has capacity for significant long-term impact. As we wait for the conclusions and learning from the various ongoing efforts mentioned in a previous post, here are a few personal experiences that I imagine will be revealed among the studies and interventions.

A head start to financial citizenship can:

  • Foster Dialogue: While conversations about money started with my mom and older siblings, they have expanded to dialogue with my friends, neighbors, parents of my friends, and now my husband.  Money has become less of a taboo topic and instead, we share techniques and best-practices ranging from credit cards to taxes. Just as we would share recipes or restaurant reviews, we’ve exchanged stories about credit reports, IRAs, and student loan management. Each month, my husband and I hold budget meetings, where we review our numbers and progress towards our financial goals, responsibilities to our families, and opportunities of philanthropic giving.
  • Encourage Planning: Knowing at a very young age that my parents not only lacked the financing to send me to college, but also that they would soon need an allowance of support from me spurred me to action and also managed my expectations. As a young child, I did not ask for toys and candy while waiting in line at the grocery store check-out. In middle school, I began participating in various competitions, whether speech or essay contests, to start raising money for college. In high school, I began applying for scholarships my sophomore year. Early planning and a future orientation enabled me to be (i) financially independent upon graduation from high school (ii) start sending money home at the completion of college and (iii) self-finance a year of volunteer work, my wedding, and down payment on an apartment. This would not have been possible without a head start.
  • Practice Habits:  I also think it made a difference for me to start my personal relationship with finance via savings instead of credit. In fact, it has resulted in an orientation toward credit, where I only considered it when necessary to finance graduate school and for a mortgage. Starting young allowed me to practice saving up toward a specific goal and instilled in me the time value of money which helps me overcome some of the biases that research in behavioral economics and the psychology of savings are revealing about barriers to saving. Starting early almost created the same affect—the same discipline—that many develop from debt.
  • Enable Financial Competency: Finally, an early start enabled me to diversify the sources and types of financial education from which I benefitted. I recall attending workshops at my local library in Tennessee on budgeting; participating in webinars provided by some of the sources of my college scholarships regarding credit; reading books and blogs about investments; and joining workshops provided by my personal banks or the human resources and staff associations of my employers. Cumulatively and over time, I gained the knowledge and attitude towards financial competency. Each intervention provided new lessons, and I still have much to learn.
  • Secure a Safe and High Quality Financial Passage: I think all of these experiences are like stamps in a financial passport. They each have contributed to my personal financial citizenship, and hopefully, they will enable me to create financial inclusion and opportunities for others, whether in my personal or professional capacities. These experiences also inform why I believe in initiatives like FAB (Financial Access at Birth), which aim to challenge the process, to make us think differently about whether financial citizenship can start at birth, and how interventions like financial education can ensure a safe and quality experience.

Image credit: ACCION International

> Posted by Rosita Najmi

While most people remember their first date, how many of us recall the first time we entered a bank? The two strongest memories of my initial visit were the bowl of lollipops behind the counter, and the confused look on the teller’s face when I asked with whom I should speak to open an account.

My first relationship with banking began in elementary school, during a visit to open an account for my single mother and our household of four children. My family came to the United States as religious refugees and had to navigate new systems and start our financial history from scratch— my mother’s credit history did not exactly transfer well from Iran. Although I only knew basic arithmetic and was still learning how to read from Ernie and Bert, my mother had few other choices, as no one at the local bank in rural East Tennessee could speak Persian, and my older siblings were at one of their numerous jobs, which provided income for our family during our initial years in our new life in America.

I was likely this bank’s youngest customer at the time, but it was not long before other clients who were not tall enough to reach the counter were registered among their books. I remember this initial meeting had quite a bit of back and forth between the bank agent speaking with my mother and me and the branch manager — the kind you experience when you’re negotiating the purchase of a car. He kept going in and out of the office, I assume to figure out how to proceed. In the end, despite not being his typical target audience, he came up with what was necessary to provide us access to finance.

Three decades later, I join other practitioners of development finance in asking questions about financial citizenship such as, “At what age can it start? When should it start? What are the best products and services?” Luckily, at least one donor and a number of international NGOs and financial service providers are interested in the answers. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Rosita Najmi

Credit Suisse is a strong believer in corporate social responsibility, and a key part of its strategy is the establishment of the Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative in 2007. This initiative seeks to strengthen microfinance institutions by investing in training structures and facilitating the flow of knowledge between microfinance institutions and the financial services industry. By combining charitable contributions with employee engagement, Credit Suisse fully invests its resources in building capacity and expanding the reach of microfinance institutions. Credit Suisse officially partners with four microfinance institutions, one of which is ACCION. Through this sponsorship, Credit Suisse became a proud founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION. Credit Suisse also supports the establishment of training centers in India and China to provide training in credit methodology, program management, and best practices to staff at all levels.

In addition to sponsorships, Credit Suisse’s Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative mobilizes employees all across the bank to spread awareness of microfinance — educating one another and sharing knowledge. The Microfinance Advocates network was formed globally with regional steering committees in London, New York, and Singapore/Hong Kong and is now more than 500+ members strong, including an impressive pool of individuals to whom an opportunity to virtually volunteer with the Center was presented in the spring of 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

In their television interview, “Taking Down Poverty from Day One,” Charles Payne and Shibani Joshi from Fox Business Network announce Financial Access at Birth (FAB)’s goal to raise $5M to finance FAB’s first pilot. In the interview, they discuss with FAB’s founder (Bhagwan Chowdhry), to what global challenges FAB is responding, and how financial inclusion can be supported through this model, one baby at a time. FAB is ready for its first pilot, has earned an invitation from a host country, and needs help raising funds.

Bhagwan Chowdhry reminds viewers that nearly half of the world’s adult population, 2.7B people lacks access to safe and quality financial services. Poor women in India and Africa are even willing to pay for the opportunity to save safely. Not only do most countries lack unique, universal ID systems, but also, many births go unregistered.

“Poverty knows no season, borders, or race. It affects us all in some way. If we asked those whom we aim to serve, they would say the ‘right time’ is yesterday. We must act now, act together, and act differently, if we want to see full financial inclusion in our generation,” notes FAB’s manager, Rosita Najmi. Read the rest of this entry »

Press Release                                                (Rosita Najmi 865-310-2787, rnajmi@accion.org)

Aug 28: Financial Access at Birth (FAB) Cameo on HBO’s Entourage

Cameo by founder of Financial Access at Birth (FAB) to showcase this social and economic innovation aimed at guaranteeing that all have a chance at financial citizenship.

Washington, DC, August 26, 2011 – Entourage will host a cameo appearance by the founder of Financial Access at Birth (FAB), Bhagwan Chowdhry, on August 28 during an episode in the HBO television series’ final season. The Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION currently hosts FAB as it prepares for pilots.

“It’s incredibly exciting to bring Entourage’s massive audience a taste of what we can accomplish with FAB, a social and economic innovation that seeks financial inclusion…one birth at a time,” said Chowdhry, a professor of Finance at UCLA’s Anderson School. “FAB presents an innovation to the delivery of financial and social services that helps us reach the “last mile” into rural areas and minimizes costs for reaching the bottom of the pyramid by using technology.”

“Solutions to poverty do not have to be as complicated as the problems they aim to solve,” said Doug Ellin, Executive Producer of Entourage. “I imagine among the million viewers of Entourage, there are others who also have good ideas. Hopefully, they, like Bhagwan Chowdhry, have the courage to share their vision and collaborate with others to connect their ideas to action to benefit us all.” Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

The Financial Access at Birth (FAB) Campaign will be featured on HBO’s television series Entourage through a cameo appearance by its founder, Bhagwan Chowdhry, on August 28.

Stay tuned for more details!

Have you read?

Paganucci Fellows Work to Boost Financial Access at Birth

What’s ‘A FAB Idea’? Financial Access at Birth, Says ‘The Economist

Microfinance Gateway Covers ‘Youth and Money: Planting the Seed for Success’

> Posted by Tara Kedia, Campbell Miller, Gurveen Chadha, Ryan Tincher, Waritorn Earth Chariyawattanarut

Siddhartha Chowdri with clients from Bihar

Tara Kedia, Campbell Miller, Gurveen Chadha, Ryan Tincher, Waritorn Earth Chariyawattanarut (L-R)

The Paganucci Fellows Program is a summer internship for Dartmouth students, hosted by the Tuck School of Business. Under the guidance of Tuck faculty, Richard McNulty and Courtney Hurley Pierson, the program empowers five Dartmouth undergraduates, who wish to make a difference in the world, with the unique opportunity to utilize resources at Tuck to support a social enterprise. The stated goal of the program is to “support Tuck’s efforts to study complex social issues and the ways in which businesses can create positive social and financial value; in effect, the ‘double bottom line’.”  As a team, students pursue a global development consulting project to fuel passion for international development and to acquire skills for future endeavors in social service.  The 2011 Paganucci Fellows Program selected a social and economic innovation that seeks financial inclusion currently hosted by the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION: FAB (Financial Access at Birth).

FAB is the brainchild of Bhagwan Chowdhry, a UCLA Anderson Professor of Finance. Rosita Najmi, FAB’s Program Manager, introduced us to the Financial Access at Birth (FAB) model, gave us context for the assignment, and provided workshops on strategy, country analysis, research methods, and more. FAB emerged from the concern that more than half of the world’s adult population—2.7 billion people — lacks access to formal financial services, as seen in this map created by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. Part of the team’s assignment is the preparation of a feasibility study for a pilot of the FAB model in Ghana, and the process involves defining key questions that the FAB model must consider prior to implementing a pilot, whether in Ghana or elsewhere.  Other efforts include the development of a communication strategy for the launch of a new website and August 28 cameo in the final season of the popular HBO television series Entourage. Finally, the team is supporting the strategy and creation of preliminary invitation lists for the global consultations that FAB hopes to soon launch. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Microfinance Gateway‘s new post “Youth and Money: Planting the Seed for Success” got our ear by hitting some nice notes about financial inclusion.

The piece by T. Kilara and J. Rexner observes that as financial access “expands across the developing world, youth and adolescents have become a promising new sub-sector of the market for financial services. This emerging interest is related both to the demographic realities of the developing world – by 2050 it is expected that people aged 10-24 will account for 45% of the population – as well as the promise of advancements such as mobile-banking. However, despite these projections, a 2009 survey found that only 4.2 million youth are currently accessing financial services.” Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Featured in The Economist, CNN, Forbes, Fast Company, and Smart Money, FAB (Financial Access at Birth) is a social and economic innovation that seeks inclusion. The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) at ACCION International proudly hosts the FAB concept as it deepens its model and prepares for pilot.

Why FAB? Half the world’s population (more than 3 billion people) does not have access to a wide range of safe and quality financial products and services. FAB proposes that one approach to connect these unbanked is to open savings accounts at birth that are linked to a unique, universal ID and to make an initial deposit via a cash transfer. Once the account is created and financial identity secured, other social service providers will have the opportunity to employ this delivery channel for dissemination of information, health, education, and emergency aid.  This could include and not be limited to vaccines, tuition grants, and cash transfers for food and shelter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.
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