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> Posted by Center Staff
You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but last week, the CFI Blog published its 1,000th blog post. We started this blog in September 2008 in conjunction with the Center’s launch, as a forum for discussion, analysis, and even debate on the many issues facing financial inclusion. A lot has changed since 2008. The past few years have seen a shift in focus toward wider financial inclusion, moving beyond microcredit to include services such as savings and insurance. Technology, through mobile banking, big data, and other developments has made greatly expanded access to financial services. Client protection has become more firmly embedded into the microfinance industry. And yet, the quality of services and effective regulation continue to be as important as ever before. Going through our archives, you can see these shifts before your eyes. As this blog goes on, in addition to being a platform for sharing the latest developments and insight, it has become a historical record of how the microfinance industry has developed and changed.
This blog couldn’t be successful without the input of our many guest bloggers over the years who have leant their insight and expertise. If you ask us, it’s this range of outside expertise that makes this blog successful. We thank all of you who have written for us over the years and all of you who have shared your thoughts by commenting on our posts (5,557 comments and counting!).
Feel free to browse through our posts throughout the years via the “Archives” drop-down menu on the left-hand side. Here’s to the next 1,000!…
All-time most-read blog posts:
5 Great Books About Microfinance and How the Poor Use Money (August 23, 2011) by Yvonne Chen
5 Countries Where Microfinance Works (February 18, 2011)
Nicaraguan Microfinance in Crisis (November 5, 2009) by Sergio Guzmán
Interest Rates 101: APR vs. EIR (June 8, 2010) by Courtney Piper
Microfinance vs. Financial Inclusion: What’s the Difference? (February 27, 2013) by Susy Cheston and Larry Reed
> Posted by Bailey Klinger, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, and DJ DiDonna, Co-Founders and COO, Entrepreneurial Finance Lab
The recent Financial Inclusion 2020 conference took a very private-sector focus to financial inclusion, with headliners such as Citigroup and MasterCard CEOs, demonstrating the shared importance of financial inclusion across all types of institutions. It also illustrated the enormity of the problem at hand, and subsequently the proximity of the year 2020 by which to address it. Participants agreed that an integral aspect of this gap is solving the puzzle of how financial institutions can evaluate risk for information-scarce micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and do so while keeping transaction costs low.
Industrial and organizational psychology has been working for decades on a problem with similar characteristics: how to screen people applying for jobs. Firms must decide which individuals to hire, often based on little available information. Moreover, firms must evaluate a large number of applicants in a low-cost way, particularly for entry-level positions. In response to this challenge, industrial psychology has developed a series of assessments of individuals that predict a person’s future success in a job in an objective, quantitative, scalable way. This field, which assesses skills, abilities, personalities, and intelligence, is known as psychometrics.
Our innovation at the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab (EFL) is to use psychometrics to assess an assortment of features of potential entrepreneurs and to bring this testing method to developing countries. Starting as a research project at Harvard in 2010, we have developed a 30-60 minute automated psychometric application that incorporates the potential borrower’s attitude and outlook, ability, business acumen, and character. It can measure risk without relying on business plans, credit history, collateral, or group liability.
> Posted by Ajay Banga, President and Chief Executive Officer, MasterCard
The following post was originally published on LinkedIn.
Organizations like the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and the World Bank have recently set a goal by 2020 of achieving full financial inclusion for the 2.5 billion people – about half the planet – who don’t participate in the financial mainstream. Bringing one in two people across the globe into the financial fold is a formidable challenge. Can it be done? I don’t know. But if you don’t set a goal, you won’t start moving towards it. That’s the advantage of an aspiration like this: it fires everybody’s imagination and puts some energy into the system.
If you think about it, it’s not unlike another ambitious goal that was had a couple of generations ago in the early 1960s. For me, full financial inclusion by 2020 is our generation’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon. Just as space flight and research transformed science, telecommunications, transportation, and more, I believe financial inclusion has the potential to be just as transformative. But a lot needs to happen to meet this challenge. I’ll focus on four things that I believe will help.
- Reducing cash-dependency around the globe;
- Leveraging the scale and reach of public-private partnerships;
- Making economic growth more inclusive; and
- Building a global economy that’s closer to being truly global.
Reducing cash-dependency around the globe
Any conversation about reducing cash-dependency has to start with addressing some longstanding myths about cash. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Innocent Ephraim, M-PESA Product Manager, Vodacom, discusses some of the main concerns shared on the FI2020 Global Forum’s panel ‘Building Infrastructure & Spurring Innovation’, along with an overview of the challenges faced in rolling-out M-PESA’s product success in Kenya to Tanzania and South Africa.
Financial inclusion and technology innovation
The main concern of the forum panel was making sure that we bring in financial inclusion, and technology innovation is one of the key things for this. What I strongly believe in is the mobile money product itself. And mobile money products are being held up with a pillar, which is the agent distribution. Just like any other product that is mass distributed – Coca Cola and similar products – mobile money products need to be visible, available, and trusted. So once all of that is achieved, then innovation can chip in.
Listening to the customer
It’s important to listen to the customer because customers are the reason why we do this. We want to make sure that we don’t complicate their lives because the minute that we do that we already risk excluding them with our complicated innovation that we put in the mix. And we’ve got it wrong many times, we’ve learnt from our mistakes, and as a Product Manager, I know that it’s critical to listen to our customers.
Learning from mistakes
I’ll give you an example of a mistake we made with a product that we learnt from. We launched a life insurance product in Tanzania, and we expected millions to adopt it. We were actually shocked with the cultural behavior in Tanzania. Every customer that we communicated with to pick up the product kept saying: ‘You guys want me to die! Why do you want me to die?’ Here, we learnt that it’s not all about what we think is good for the customer. So we went back to the drawing board. Nevertheless, the product is used by hundreds of thousands in the country.
Now the team in Tanzania has done a study to see what type of insurance our customers need, and then reposition it. And one of the key findings from that study is that customers need a product they directly benefit from, health insurance was seen as ideal because then they feel they benefit out of it. They don’t want to buy an insurance cover that benefits somebody else – for example, the life insurance product where the customers felt it was just bad luck for them and that we just wanted them to pass away!
Kenya: the archetype of mobile payment
Kenya is a very good place to go and look at how mobile payments and technology has worked out. But you need to enter into different markets in different ways. If you look at Kenya, the population is dense and one agent would service hundreds of customers. When you go to Tanzania, where the population is much sparser, an agent would service fewer customers, and that makes it less attractive to an agent. Consequently, agents choose to invest in some other type of business instead of mobile money. (That’s only one of the differences between the two markets. A study has been done to highlight the differences of these two neighboring countries.) What we learnt in Tanzania is that we need to make sure that different products and services are integrated into the agent point-of-sale. So when you give an agent a tool to conduct mobile money services, allow them to do utility payment or airtime as well, so they actually aggregate from transactions from the same customer. That creates more incentive and profitability to the agent.
Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Microfinance, shares his views on the lead up to the FI2020 Global Forum, as well as reflecting upon the panel discussion ‘Global Trends & Emerging Markets’.
Please share with us Citi’s perspective on the lead up to this Global Forum
What led us to this point is a convergence of a number of organizations that have been working together originally on traditional microfinance. As that grew, some of the original microfinance institutions became banks, cooperatives, credit unions, and other players that were trying to work on some similar issues with the same communities. In other words, it was a bigger discussion.
We then found other players like mobile operators and the card companies becoming interested in financial inclusion, or becoming interested in businesses that will probably expand financial inclusion. They didn’t come at it with a goal of financial inclusion necessarily, but the work that they’re doing is leading towards that.
So, we realized we needed to convene a wider range of organizations than we had before. And that was the discussion that led us with Accion and CFI to come up with a goal for financial inclusion. With the goal of 2020, it’s hopefully far enough off for us to do something, but it’s not so far off that it seems a pipedream. With the belief that there can be exponential growth using new technology and a much wider range of institutions, it has become an ambitious target for financial inclusion.
Emerging markets and banks
I don’t think that many of the banks that are not already in emerging economy/developing countries are suddenly going to become active. We don’t see new banks or international banks in Dhaka or Chittagong or in Hanoi or Kinshasa. And it is an awareness among local banks too that there is probably another way other than the old model of the bricks and mortars branches to expand access. Read the rest of this entry »
> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI
The following post was originally published on the World Bank Private Sector Development Blog.
The issue of financial inclusion seems to be everywhere – from the World Bank Annual Meetings to the new UN post-2015 development goals. It’s got buzz in the private sector, public sector and development organizations big and small. Policymakers are increasingly making financial inclusion a priority through specific financial inclusion targets and commitments, such as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s Maya Declaration. In fact, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently launched an initiative “to provide universal financial access to all working-age adults by 2020.”
As we know from the Global Findex, more than 2.5 billion people lack access to even a basic bank account — a huge gap in inclusion and an enormous opportunity. Demographic changes, economic growth, and advances in technology are making global financial inclusion more possible than ever before. With a massive new market of people demanding new services as incomes rise among the bottom 40 percent, the stage is set for dramatic leaps in access in the next few years. Emerging technologies are bringing down costs and opening new business models while providing greater access to a range of services.
Recognizing that the time is ripe for significant progress on financial inclusion, the Center for Financial Inclusion developed a consultative process aimed to raise everyone’s sights about the possibilities of achieving full inclusion within a foreseeable timeframe – using the year 2020 as a focal point. The process sought to build a more cohesive financial inclusion “community” through the development of a common vision. It brought together experts from the World Bank, IFC, and CGAP along with many representatives of the private sector and the social sector. Financial Inclusion 2020’s Roadmap to Financial Inclusion is the result.
With all of the financial inclusion buzz, you would think that we would be closer to full inclusion. But if closing the gaps were easy, it would have happened already. Many factors still stand in the way. In the case of regulatory accommodation to new technology, for example, the gaps result from such factors as the pace of the spread of know-how among policymakers globally, national legislative and political processes, and uncertainty about the risks involved with new models. In the case of fully addressing the needs of customers at the base of the pyramid (BOP), gaps stem from a combination of doubt among providers about the likely profitability of these customers and limited knowledge inside institutions about the financial lives of the poor. In the case of client protection, providers face perverse incentives, while many regulatory bodies are only beginning the major task of establishing robust oversight of market conduct.
We see encouraging examples of financial inclusion in the most remote corners of the world, often done by surprising actors. However, the momentum is uneven. The Roadmap process included many of the thinkers and entrepreneurs behind such initiatives. Each of the five working groups — Addressing Customer Needs, Technology, Financial Capability, Client Protection and Credit Reporting — has developed a roadmap to direct the world community toward the actions most needed to achieve FI2020’s vision of full financial inclusion. Most of the recommendations are addressed either to governments or to providers, but they point the way to actions needed by a range of supporting organizations, including multilateral and bilateral organizations, donors, social investors and non-profits, at both the global and the national levels.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
The following post is comprised of research from three Credit Suisse Virtual Volunteers, Vipin Gupta, Kajal Shah, and Jennifer Hughes.
Most persons with disabilities (PWDs) don’t have an account at a formal financial institution. In India, 5 – 6 percent of the population (roughly 66 million) are estimated to have a disability, and three-quarters of Indian PWDs live in rural areas where access to banking services is limited. In India on the whole, about 35 percent of the adult population has a formal bank account. In Mexico, about 10 percent of households have at least one member with a disability, and about 27 percent of the country’s adult population has an account at a formal financial institution. These two countries present huge financial inclusion opportunities for PWDs. Encouragingly, significant PWD inclusion in-roads in both are underway.
In India, low financial inclusion incidence among PWDs is connected with poverty and unemployment. A meager 0.14 percent of PWDs in India hold regular jobs. This employment statistic stands in spite of efforts from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) mandating that 3 percent of government jobs be reserved for PWDs, and incentivizing private employers to ensure that at least 5 percent of their workforce is comprised of PWDs. The same low fulfillment of positions reserved for PWDs has been seen in several of the government’s rural employment schemes. In a study examining labor-intensive agricultural occupations in India, it was found that the majority of PWDs were not chosen by potential employers, and that PWDs in rural areas mostly depend on non-agriculture-based-self-employment as a means of livelihood. For these individuals and others pursuing self-employment, a lack of adequate capital can be a critical roadblock to earning a livelihood.
There are a multitude of factors contributing to this situation, including low education (only half of Indian PWDs have any formal education), inability to afford health treatments, un-inclusive employment settings, un-inclusive surroundings, prejudice against PWDs, lack of awareness of support programs and other resources, and geographic remoteness to banking, education, employment, training, and rehabilitation facilities. Nearly any of these factors are enough to pose large, or in some cases insurmountable, challenges to accessing formal financial services. When combined, the task of accessing traditional avenues of financing can be overwhelming. For many PWDs, the only viable source of financing is money from friends and family, but in lower-income rural areas even that is difficult to come by.
Other challenges that stand in the way of greater inclusion of PWDs in India include lack of a standardized method for defining and evaluating disability, and lack of up-to-date data.