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> Posted by Center Staff
The 2016 Harvard Business School – Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance is now accepting applications for what will be another exceptional week of learning and exchange among world leaders in financial inclusion. The program will take place March 28 – April 2, 2016 at the HBS campus in Boston, Massachusetts.
The 2016 HBS-Accion Program builds on ten successful years and over 600 alumni – CEOs, presidents, executive directors, and other high-level professionals – from roughly 100 countries.
Today’s landscape of financial services for the base of the pyramid is increasingly complex, with a diversity of products, providers, and support organizations extending services to previously excluded populations. Disruptive technologies and new ways of doing business are creating new possibilities for reaching more people with more types of services. It’s an exciting time for financial inclusion, though for leaders steering their organizations through this landscape, the pace and magnitude of change may look overwhelming. Financial service providers participating in the program will benefit from the guidance of some of the world’s best business minds to better understand the possibilities and the pitfalls of today’s 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 Susy Cheston and Sonja E. Kelly, CFI
Aging is an issue that we all hope to face personally, if we haven’t already. As we prepare to participate in European Microfinance Week, we are more convinced than ever that this is a critical topic for the financial inclusion community to address. (If you are planning to be at European Microfinance Week too, make sure to check out our panel on the Sustainable Development Goals and financial inclusion!) In Europe, the aging of the population is well acknowledged. With average life expectancy in Europe among the highest in the world, at 77 years, the proportion of the population reaching older age is naturally growing. About 25 percent of Europe’s population is now over the age of 60, and that percentage is set to rise. The aging of the population is well understood in Europe, but what is less recognized is that the middle and lower-middle income countries of the world – the countries that encompass most of the world’s population – are already beginning to experience the same older age population boom. In most middle income countries, from Mexico to China, over-60s are the fastest growing cohort of the population. Aging is a product of successful development. Increased life expectancy, better family planning mechanisms, and higher quality of life all contribute to growth in the proportion of the population that is older.
Aging is a reality, but can it also represent an opportunity for financial institutions? The smart money is on providers who recognize that the answer is yes, and work to figure out how to respond.
We’ve created a list of activities, some practical and some research-oriented, we think would be valuable to close the gaps in financial inclusion for older people and for younger people who want to prepare for their older age. And, frankly, we would love for you to steal these ideas!
> Posted by Center Staff
Last week, FI2020 Week created a global conversation on the key actions needed to advance financial inclusion, grounded in the findings of the recently launched FI2020 Progress Report. From November 2-6, 2015, stakeholders around the world participated in more than 30 events and shared their voices over social media, with #FI2020. As part of the week, global financial inclusion leaders offered calls to action. We started to provide highlights, but found that every single contributor had an important perspective to add, so this post includes all of their voices.
If there were any doubts about the potential to achieve global financial inclusion, it would be dispelled by the passion and sense of opportunity in the calls to action that were posted last week as part of FI2020 Week. A visionary tone was set by the inaugural posting by Ajay Banga of MasterCard, who declared that “financial inclusion is both economic and social inclusion and necessary for the future well-being of our planet.” Jean-Claude Masangu Mulongo, former Governor of the Central Bank of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, draws the link between financial inclusion, economic growth, and poverty reduction, while also—appropriately, given his role–noting the link to financial stability. Yves Moury of Fundación Capital heightens the urgency by stating that “poverty is the greatest scandal of our times,” and Martin Burt of Fundación Paraguaya adds that “poverty elimination must be the endgame of all financial inclusion strategies.”
This strong sense of social mission comes out in a call from Dr. William Derban of Fidelity Bank Ghana to “leave no one behind” in the march toward inclusion. Michael Miebach of MasterCard also talks about meeting the needs of all members of society, including women, and Bindu Ananth of IFMR Trust mentions smallholder farmers as another group that is often excluded. In light of breakthroughs in technology, Sonja Kelly of the Center for Financial Inclusion urges us to reach out to those who are traditionally excluded from technology, and not just early adopters. As Larry Reed of the Microcredit Summit Campaign puts it, “We need to approach the challenge with the end in mind, designing a system that can sustainably reach clients in the most remote areas and who transact in the smallest sums.”
> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI
Of the 700 million new accounts that the Global Findex reports were opened from 2011 to 2014:
- Banks and other financial institutions accounted for 550 million;
- Mobile network operators accounted for 100-240 million, depending on your source and methodology;
- Microfinance institutions accounted for 50 million.
These numbers are rough and involve some overlap—but they point to the continued importance of commercial banks in financial inclusion. Put another way, of the 3.2 billion accounts reported in the 2014 Findex, 3.1 billion were accounts with a financial institution.
That’s why I was so interested in hearing what the commercial bankers had to say at an Institute of International Finance (IIF) roundtable held in Lima on October 9 alongside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) / World Bank meetings. The strategies they discussed for reaching the BoP were not new to those immersed in the financial inclusion world, but it was heartening to hear their commitment to putting those strategies into operation. Here are a few of the points from the discussion:
Use data to understand customers. Now more than ever, there is a wealth of available data to help us better understand customers at the base of the pyramid. These new customer insights are opening up new practices – from on-boarding, to cross-selling, to risk management. Data analytics can also enable cost reductions on credit and insurance. For example, ecommerce platforms for small manufacturers can facilitate credit offers and then arrange for automatic repayment from the ecommerce activity itself. This innovative use of data allows financing at half the cost.
> Posted by David Tuesta, BBVA, and Sonja E. Kelly, CFI
A Spanish-language version of this post follows the English-language version.
YOU are a beneficiary of data. The materials in those shoes you are wearing were chosen over other materials because of data on cost, durability, and consumer opinion. When you go to the supermarket, you can easily find the chocolate bars because data told company marketers that if the chocolate bars are at the front of the store, consumers will be more likely to buy them. When you use public transportation, the fare you pay is based on data on the cost of the system and estimates of how many riders there will be.
Some people think data is boring. For those people, we say “tough luck.” Data is inevitable. Data provides the information on which economic decisions are based. More data provides more knowledge, information and transparency, helping all economic agents make better decisions, and through this, increasing society`s welfare.
It is no wonder, therefore, that data is critical for financial inclusion, as the financial services industry expands its focus toward harder to reach and lower income populations. The data we have on consumers helps to better understand how quickly financial inclusion is catching on and to tool financial services products appropriately to different market segments. Data at higher levels helps too: information about financial services providers is essential for regulators to monitor the market. Data matters, and it will shape the path of financial inclusion.
Last month at the invitation and of the Inter-American Development Bank we met at the IDB’s Washington, D.C. headquarters with a group of people from many institutions across the financial services industry from large international organizations to small research institutions to global banks to take stock of what data is out there, how much information could be available, how it can best be used, and how data efforts can be improved. There have been strong efforts to improve data from the demand side (customers), such as the Global Findex. Despite many data collection initiatives on the supply side (providers), there are still gaps that could be important for improving and evaluating convenience and
accessibility of potential financial services for those who are unbanked.
Read the rest of this entry »
> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI
Visitors to our FI2020 Progress Report on Client Protection will have noted our poor math skills. (This is the section of the report that assesses global progress to date in advancing fair treatment for lower-income financial services clients.) We rated regulators a 6 on consumer protection and providers a 3—and somehow averaged those out to a 5. Our averaging skills make even less sense when you consider the three legs of the client protection stool—providers, regulators, and consumers—and realize that consumers are not even on the radar, rightfully earning a 1 at best in terms of their capacity to advocate on their own behalf. So why the optimism?
We were certainly swayed by the impressive momentum among a range of actors at the global level—including policy and private sector initiatives—toward improved consumer protection. But it’s what happens at the national level that really counts. The World Bank’s 2014 Global Survey on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy reports that some form of legal framework for financial consumer protection is in place in 112 out of 114 economies surveyed. We are not so Pollyannaish as to think that having a legal framework is equivalent to having a regulatory and supervisory system that protects consumers well, but we do think it’s a good step in the right direction.
> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI
Today the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) is proud to launch the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report, an interactive website that portrays the recent progress and unmet challenges on the path to global financial inclusion.
When we began the FI2020 project in 2011, we hoped to create a sense of both urgency and possibility. We believed that enabling everyone in the world to gain access to quality financial services was a goal of major development significance. We also saw that with many active players and the promise that digitization would enable many more people to be reached at lower cost, it was no longer simply wishful thinking to call for full inclusion within a reasonable time frame. Global financial inclusion had entered the realm of the possible.
Today, in 2015, we are both astonished by the progress and daunted by the gaps that remain. Global Findex data shows 700 million new accounts in the three years from 2011 to 2014, reducing the number of unbanked worldwide from 2.5 to 2 billion. National governments have created ambitious financial inclusion strategies, the FinTech industry is exploding with $12 billion in global investments in 2014 alone, and the World Bank has a plan for reaching universal financial access to transaction accounts by 2020.
Our quantitative review, By the Numbers, revealed that if the current trajectory of expansion in accounts continues, many countries will achieve full account access by 2020. The rails are being laid at a rapid rate, and there is great momentum toward universal access. But access to an account is not the same thing as financial inclusion, and progress toward meaningful financial inclusion, in which people actively use a full range of services, is lagging. The passengers – customers – are often still waiting at the station for services that take them where they want to go.
> Posted by Jayshree Venkatesan, Financial Inclusion Consultant
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) Indian national financial inclusion strategy was launched with much fanfare exactly a year ago by the government. As we pass the first year anniversary, there have been a number of reports that indicate that the program is not as successful as claimed, either in reaching the poorest of the poor, or in preventing dormancy of accounts. The World Bank’s latest Global Findex study says the number of people accessing a formal bank account in India increased from 35 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014. The same study also indicates that India is among the countries with the highest percentage of dormant accounts at 43 percent, meaning the PMJDY accounts that have been opened have a high likelihood of becoming dormant.
The idea of opening bank accounts to financially include the poor is by no means a novel idea, and has been tried in various forms over the past decade in the Indian context. While there have been challenges with access, I argue the bigger issue is account dormancy. In India, it’s often the case that after access is extended, accounts remain dormant, which results in high costs for banks. This in turn tends to add to the perception that the poor are unbankable and supports a vicious cycle with bad behavior by bankers to dissuade poor customers.
My research across 368 households in four districts in Tamil Nadu, a state that has fairly high literacy rates, social security programs, and access to bank branches, indicates that awareness about the PMJDY remains low at 16 percent of the households surveyed. If this is the scenario in a state like Tamil Nadu, it is safe to say that the situation is far worse in states that have lower bank branch penetration and social indices.
> Posted by Saran Sidime, Operations Assistant, the Smart Campaign
Technology has brought safe and simple financial solutions to Somalia, a place where, until the past few years, they were completely non-existent. In June 2015, MasterCard became the first international payment network to enter Somalia, a country that hasn’t had a formal banking or financial system since the collapse of its government in 1991. MasterCard issued its first 5,000 debit cards to be used by Premier Bank, one of the few commercial banks in the country. The cards will be compatible with Premier’s ATMs, whereby customers can conduct cash withdrawals. MasterCard’s products will be the first domestically-issued debit cards in Somalia, the last remaining country in Africa not under sanctions that the company hasn’t worked in yet.
Somalia has been mired in decades of conflict since 1991, and the government continues to battle al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab insurgents. Despite the formation of a federal parliament in 2012, creating a more stable government, turmoil continues to severely restrict development of the banking system. For example, the country installed the first ATM machines in the capital, Mogadishu, only last year.
> Posted by Bindu Ananth, Chair, IFMR Trust
The following post was originally published on the IFMR Trust blog.
Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced in-principle Payment Bank licenses for eleven applicants. To put things in perspective, there were two new bank licenses in the last decade. The successful applicants include the largest telcos, corporate houses, business correspondents, a depository, and a mobile wallet provider. The number of licenses and the diversity of the pool bode well for the scale and scope of what will be pursued by this new category of banks in the years to come.
While previous licensing rounds were always for “full-service” banks, this represents the first round of licensing for a differentiated banking design following on RBI’s Discussion Paper on Differentiated Banking and the recommendations of the Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Business and Low-Income Households. To recap, a Payment Bank can provide deposit and payment products but cannot lend. This very important design feature has an important implication from a regulatory perspective – Payment Bank promoters now cannot “cross the floor” in terms of raising public deposits and lending these out. Therefore, the implications of “fit and proper” are now quite different for this group of promoters. This perhaps explains why this round produced eleven licenses against two in the last decade. And at this stage of development of the Indian banking sector, these eleven new entrants could be just what the doctor ordered for innovations on savings and payment services while not adversely impacting the stability of the banking system. An IFMR Finance Foundation working paper reported that the asset portfolio of the average rural household in India is composed almost entirely of two physical assets—housing and jewellery with little to no financial assets of any type.
Also from a financial system design perspective, this is a timely acknowledgement that the credit and payments strategy must evolve differentially within the broader financial inclusion strategy. While progress on credit would necessarily have to be much more measured and prudent no matter what strategies are adopted given the inherent risks and customer protection concerns, there is an urgent need to make access to payments ubiquitous. Yesterday’s announcement is an important step forward in that direction.