You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Policy’ category.
> Posted by Siddhartha Chowdri, Program Manager, Disability Inclusion, India, CFI
While attending the recent Techshare disability inclusion conference in New Delhi I was invited to attend a “High-Level Meeting on Inclusive Financial Service.” This meeting aimed at starting an intensive national dialogue on the use of technology in making banks in India more accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs). This unique summit was organized by G3ICT, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility division, and the Centre for Internet and Society in Mumbai.
Through the course of the afternoon many dignitaries shared their views and strategies on financial inclusion for PWDs. Senior leaders of the IBA (Mr. Mohan Tanksale) and the Reserve Bank of India (Ms. Sadana Verma and Mr. KC Anand) discussed the advances in regulation that have made banking more accessible to the blind and were extremely passionate about making the case to all financial institutions in the country that there is a legitimate business case for using available technologies to become more accessible.
After hearing the perspective of the banks and regulators the discussion turned to the technology providers. Mr. Nagesh Nayak of NCR gave us all a great lesson on how not to be accessible. NCR had the mandate to develop talking ATMs to enable visually impaired persons to access their accounts. He showed us a video that let us understand how the first talking ATMs did not actually improve access. For example, the ATM would ask the blind user to choose an option but then not say the options out loud. Then Mr. P. Ramachandran who flew in from IBM’s research headquarters in Austin, Texas explained how IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility group is using technology to empower employees with various disabilities to make significant contributions to their business. If the likes of NCR and IBM can be so proactive in promoting accessibility and provide tools and case studies, then hopefully the financial service providers of the world will not be too far behind.
> Posted by Center Staff
Last week Palestinian government officials announced plans to create a national financial inclusion strategy, an initiative that would put it on a short list of two countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that have nationwide, government-led inclusion plans (Morocco being the other).
The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and the Palestine Capital Markets Authority (PCMA), the country’s central bank and a national regulating body will co-lead the project along with support from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and other public and private groups.
The policies and guidelines of the strategy will aim to facilitate greater access, improve awareness and financial education, and reinforce client protection. An area inviting particular attention is access to credit, which is low for both individuals and SMSEs. The strategy will build on inclusion principles endorsed by the G20, World Bank, AFI, and the OECD Principles on National Strategy for Financial Education.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI
In South Africa, where fewer than 20 percent of people have medical insurance, the alternative product of hospital cash plans (HCPs) is becoming increasingly popular, but it remains to be seen where within the country’s shifting healthcare landscape HCPs will settle, and what HCP products will look like as they mature. There are currently 2.4 million people covered by HCPs in South Africa and this number is growing by 50,000 each month.
As their name might suggest, hospital cash plans don’t offer comprehensive healthcare, but instead offer cash payouts at the time of hospitalization. Payouts depend on the premiums customers pay, which means that not all medical treatment can be fully covered. However, with HCPs rising popularity and the poor state of South Africa’s health system (the country was ranked 175 out of 191 in a WHO assessment of country-level health system performance), this product area deserves thorough attention, and a few recent reports from Finmark Trust offer just that.
But first, a few basics on HCPs. Premiums paid for HCPs are determined by the individual’s age and desired level of coverage. Their cash payout at the time of hospitalization is determined by the level of coverage and the number of days spent in the hospital. In some cases the type of medical treatment received affects payout, too. Though as payout is most often determined just by days in the hospital, not the cost of care, insurers typically don’t monitor how the financial support is spent. This allows policyholders to use the money for other expenses that come up during illnesses, like getting to hospital, and to substitute for income lost due to missed work. HCPs are aimed mainly at users of public health services. Only the wealthiest 20 percent of South Africans use private services, and they are more likely to be the users of traditional medical insurance. There are currently between 30 and 40 insurers offering HCPs and about 100 offering traditional healthcare.
> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI
The U.S. Congress has recently been involved in debate on immigration, a theme also explored in President Obama’s State of the Union Address last week. Such conversations have led me to wonder… what does financial inclusion mean for people who are living outside of their home country?
There has been a marked increase in countries that have released definitions of financial inclusion, national strategies for financial inclusion, and regulations that support financial inclusion. The focus of these efforts is in part determined by how countries define the target population for financial inclusion. Often, financial inclusion is not for everyone.
At the Center for Financial Inclusion, our definition specifies that financial services are “for all who can use them.” For us, age, disability, gender, or citizen status should not keep people from formal financial services.
In the implementation of financial inclusion policy, regulation, and strategy, however, there are legal and security-based concerns affecting why our definition of financial inclusion “for all who can use financial services” isn’t reflected in every definition of financial inclusion. The OECD and the EU, for example, are very clear that financial inclusion is for citizens only. Other countries around the world similarly adopt this definition. Read the rest of this entry »
> Posted by Center Staff
Expanding financial inclusion to the 2.5 billion unbanked individuals around the world is essential, but why does it matter, and is it possible in the next six years?
In recent years, the inclusion movement has achieved critical support and rapid progress. Last year universal financial access by 2020 was endorsed by World Bank President Jim Kim. Technology-enabled business models are catalyzing outreach, building on infrastructure like the mobile phones now accessible to six of the world’s seven billion people.
In the following video, global financial inclusion leaders explore the questions of whether financial inclusion is possible by 2020, and why we should work towards that goal.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
Thirty million Americans are currently being pursued by debt collectors. During 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 180,000 complaints about the practices of these companies – a 13 percent increase over 2000 levels and more FTC complaints than from any other industry. Troublesome practices seem to only be limited by the imagination, but some of the more reported-on ones are incessant calling at all hours and issuing unsubstantiated, misleading threats. Today the U.S. debt collection industry stands at over 4,500 companies and $12 billion.
To make matters worse, many of those being pursued don’t even have the debt in question. About one-quarter of the collection-related complaints the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received last year were from individuals who were being wrongly pursued.
Debt collection happens, with some variation, in one of three ways: lenders carry out the collection in-house; third-party companies are hired and paid to complete the collection; or third-party companies buy a lender’s debt and independently complete the collection. In the latter case, collection companies buy individual’s debts from lenders for as low as a few cents for each dollar of debt and in return they receive a spreadsheet with basic information like names, phone numbers, and debt amounts. Collectors pocket the difference between what they paid to the lenders and the total they collect. It’s not uncommon for this spreadsheet information, intentionally or not, to be inaccurate or faulty. And even when a person is wrongly pursued, the consequences can be serious.
A popular debt collections practice brought to public attention in recent years thanks to legal suits centers on collectors taking debtors to court without their awareness (giving new meaning to the phrase blind judgment). Collections agents fail to serve a debtor a notice of complaint, produce a false affidavit claiming the individual has been properly served, and then proceed with a court hearing. The defendant, of course, does not attend, and so most often the debt collector wins the case and a default judgment is issued. (More than 95 percent of credit card lawsuits end in a default judgment, an automatic win for the collector or lender.) Such rulings could include the freezing of bank accounts, garnishing of wages, and they are very likely to reduce credit scores.
> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI
The following post was originally published on the IFMR Trust Blog.
The Mor Committee Report offers a radical take on client protection, built around the concept of a legal right to suitability. After describing the recommendations briefly, I would like to tell IFMR’s readership why I’m excited about the approach (two big cheers), provide some thoughts on how to make it work (and how the Smart Campaign could assist), and raise a couple of questions.
Suitability is about ensuring that clients are sold financial services that are appropriate for their circumstances. A suitable product is one the client can be expected to manage with a low probability of serious hardship and a reasonable prospect that it will provide value. The concept has been present for some time in financial consumer protection regulation, most notably in the UK and Australia. The Mor Report proposes a unique approach to implementing suitability, which places responsibility on the service provider to install processes to ensure that clients are sold suitable products, e.g., client targeting and underwriting procedures that adequately assess repayment capacity. Regulation would hold the board of directors responsible for approving and overseeing the implementation of these processes, subject to external review. Hand in hand with this, the report recommends an energetic grievance redress system (which I will not address here), including both internal and external mechanisms to cope with individual problems.
The first big cheer goes to the decision to focus on suitability as the heart of client protection. This directs attention exactly where the greatest potential for harm occurs. Overindebtedness, is perhaps the greatest failure of suitability, resulting from selling loans that exceed a client’s debt threshold. This is why the Smart Campaign places Appropriate Product Design and Delivery and Prevention of Overindebtedness as Client Protection Principles #1 and #2, even ahead of Transparency. Among all the standard client protection problems, only overselling of credit has repeatedly caused sector-wide crisis and collapse, and thus if there is to be a focal point, this is the right one. (The report discusses the relative merits of suitability vs. disclosure as the core of consumer protection policy, which raises both practical and philosophical issues – an engaging topic for another day’s post.)
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
Electronic payment systems are spreading so rapidly they’ve become a challenge to size up. Payment cards have been around in some form since the early 20th Century, but their outreach is still far from ubiquitous, even in countries like the United States. To get a sense of where we stand with the expansion of modern payment systems, I compiled some recent statistics from around the world.
In the United States, employers are increasingly using electronic payment cards to distribute compensation. As compared to checks that require processing, the cards receive funds immediately, and can be used like any other payment card to make purchases, transfers, and withdrawals. In 2012, more than $34 billion was loaded onto 4.6 million active payroll cards. By 2017, this is expected to grow to $69 billion over 10.8 million cards.
Electronic payments are experiencing rapid outreach in India in part through the government’s Aadhaar identification card initiative. Increasingly banks are accepting the biometric information-backed Aadhaar numbers as adequate Know-Your-Client information, and as part of its financial inclusion report released last week, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and Low Income Households recommends that every individual over the age of 18 receive an electronic bank account when they’re issued an Aadhaar number. As of December 2013, about half the country’s population had enrolled for the identification cards. The RBI plans to have the entire adult population enrolled in the system by January 2016. Among their utilities, the cards are being used to distribute social benefits of the government’s Direct Benefit Transfer scheme. A recent UBS Securities report estimates that the efficiencies gained from the card-based social benefit system could total up to 1.2 percent of India’s GDP.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
To combat high and rising national over-indebtedness levels, last month the South African Minister of Finance and Minister of Trade and Industry announced new steps the government will take to aid those entrapped in over-indebtedness and to prevent more individuals from befalling the same fate.
The actions follow the presidential cabinet the week prior authorizing the ministers to take action on the issue, as over-indebtedness has grown to be an alarming nationwide problem. The government enacted legislation in the last decade, including the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (2002) and the National Credit Act (2005), to protect clients and control for reckless lending. However, such industry aims have proven to be no easy task. The level of household indebtedness has increased from 50 percent of disposable income in 2003 to 76 percent in June 2013.
A few focus areas of the government’s forthcoming actions are enhancing lending controls, reviewing pricing caps, regulation of credit life insurance policies, regulations on debt-collection firms, relief for distressed borrowers, and improving the emolument attachment and garnishee orders system. Here’s the full list of planned measures shared in the government’s media release.