> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

What financial inclusion stakeholders believe is most important in advancing client protection

Regulators take the lead in advancing client protection in financial services, we’ve heard.  Providers “merely comply.”

If you are of the view that providers can, and should, take a leading role in client protection, then the results of a recent survey conducted by the Aspen Institute are discouraging.  The survey, carried out on behalf of the Smart Campaign as part of its strategic planning, took a look at the three-legged stool of client protection—providers, regulators, and consumers—and asked which element was the most important.  Of the financial inclusion stakeholders who were interviewed, only 24 percent said that provider-led initiatives were the most important element in client protection.  By comparison, 39 percent thought regulation and governance were the most important, and 37 percent put their faith in consumer awareness and activism.

I disagree!  We believe action from the financial services providers themselves is a vital missing link.  But what is holding them back?  In a consultative process carried out by the Financial Inclusion 2020 project over the past year, here are the top six reasons we heard for providers not taking the lead in consumer protection. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Sonja Kelly, CFI, and Thierry van Bastelaer, Abt Associates, American University, and the Microinsurance Network

Even 10 years ago, most of us would never have thought that the words “insurance” and “low-income households in the developing world” would be heard in the same sentence. It would have been as strange as, say, hearing the words “really good coffee” and “Washington, D.C.” in the same sentence.

But times have changed. Thanks to tremendous innovation in product design, pricing, and distribution systems, insurance is increasingly affordable to low-income households that are looking for ways to protect themselves from daily risky events. We should take a few moments to stop and celebrate this development. (Pause for celebration.) Thank you.

At the same time, we should learn from the history of the broader financial inclusion field. It took many years for the majority of the field to admit that credit alone can’t meet all the financial needs of poor families. Hopefully the excitement over insurance will not similarly delay the realization that it alone can’t address all the financial protection needs of these families. A great variety of financial products is needed to address an even greater diversity of needs.

So, over a cup of really good coffee one afternoon in Washington, D.C., we sketched out a possible framework that articulates where insurance fits into the product spectrum for financial risk protection vis-a-vis savings and loans.¹

We thought of risk protection expenses along two axes: frequency and size, and plotted expenses on a 2×2 table (forgive our back-of-the-napkin scribble).

Financially inclusive products are best designed to finance risk management expenses in the top left and bottom right quadrants of the graph. High-frequency inexpensive outlays can, when accumulating over time, significantly disrupt the cash flows of low-income families. Similarly, low-frequency expensive payments can ruin years of carefully planned asset accumulation. Low-frequency and inexpensive events (bottom left) can usually be covered by cash, and high-frequency expensive events (top right) are usually beyond the reach of most financial inclusion products.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Can you confidently speak to the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities (PwDs)? How about the proportion of PwDs that live below the poverty line? …The prevalence of disabilities?

The financial and economic hardships of PwDs don’t get much mainstream attention. You, if you’re like most, don’t know that in the United States, for example, about one-fifth of the population (roughly 60 million) has a disability, PwDs are twice as likely to use informal financial services like payday lenders and check cashers, the unemployment rate for PwDs is more than double the national average, and about one-third of adult PwDs live in poverty. These statistics are severe. Not to mention, current demographic shifts will result in larger older adult populations and position the incidence of disability, and the magnitude of these unmet inclusion needs, to grow.

Last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a mainstream U.S. financial player, announced an initiative that will work in concert with financial empowerment and disability organizations to tackle these pressing issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Joshua Goldstein aka Mr. Provocative

Today, in 2070, with advanced robotization of jobs in all sectors, “work” has become a minority pursuit and financial inclusion is mostly understood to mean government cash transfers. Other financial products like loans are anachronisms of a bygone era. The government knows that such transfer programs like “unemployment benefits” are the only way to keep the anemic engine of demand alive for the goods and services that are now produced by a smaller and smaller sliver of the population who live in Byzantine splendor far removed from the humdrum circumstances of the vast majority. (Indeed in 2070, “unemployment” is a forgotten term from an era when “work” was a defining feature of life.) And the lack of work extends to what is today called “knowledge economy” occupations as well as almost every other category of white and blue collar work. Now, all humans enjoy a pension plan that goes into effect at birth and is more than enough to meet basic consumption needs. The benefit ends only with death by lethal injection at the mandatory termination age of 120.

Am I painting a scenario that seems wildly implausible? Perhaps.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Blog posts. Twitter feeds. Facebook updates. Email listservs. Google Alerts. Lunchtime conversations… We all have our ways, however handy and effective, of trying to stay abreast of what’s happening around the world. For those interested in financial inclusion, this is quite the challenge. The release of new products, partnerships, publications, and policies is a constant. But at CFI’s Financial Inclusion 2020 (FI2020) project, combing the world for the latest inclusion insights, trends, and developments is part of what we do. So, we decided to go one step further.

Starting today, each week the FI2020 team will bring you the big news in financial inclusion in an online magazine, the Financial Inclusion 2020 News Feed. We’ll pull from all over to spotlight great new stories, initiatives, videos, podcasts, and more. To give you a sense, the collection of pieces that make up this week’s edition touch on:

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s new report on U.S. households’ financial resilience, Weathering Volatility
  • AllAfrica’s recent article on the new partnership between Tigo and Juntos in Tanzania
  • The Guardian’s interactive post that visualizes borrowing trends globally
  • A World Bank video on assessing if microloans really make a difference

To check out the first edition, click here, and make sure to subscribe so you can be notified when the latest issue comes out.

Have you come across a story or initiative you think we should cover? Email your ideas to us at ezuehlke@accion.org.

> Posted by Alex Counts, President and CEO, Grameen Foundation

Account Use (Developing Economies) - Click to Enlarge

Account Use (Developing Economies) – Click to Enlarge

Especially since the Global Findex report made headlines around the world with its finding that the number of financially excluded dropped from 2.5 billion to 2 billion during the period 2011-2014, I have been increasingly uneasy with equating account access as financial inclusion, and especially as equivalent to the essential concept of full financial inclusion as defined by CFI. The Center’s new publication “By the Numbers” does an excellent job helping people to digest all the publicly available data about financial inclusion, and make sense of them. It also reinforces my unease.

Despite the progress in account openings, the report makes it clear that the number of people actually using accounts is unfortunately not growing. Even more worrying, it argues that most accounts “are not really functioning as the hoped-for ‘on-ramp’ to financial inclusion.” The risk, as I see it, is that by adopting a stunted definition of financial inclusion that emphasizes account openings, we may be measuring and incentivizing the wrong things. The report wisely urges “caution regarding the value of mass drives for account opening, such as mandated no frills accounts…”

While the available data may overstate progress in some areas, the data may understate it in others due to the tendency to focus only on transactions at formal financial institutions. As the report notes, the percentage of people in low and middle income countries who save increased from 31 percent to 54 percent — quite a jump! — over three years, but this “is not reflected in a commensurate increase in saving in financial institutions.” Global surveys tend to miss savings groups and microfinance institutions, which in many markets play important roles. The alarming gaps in data related to access among vulnerable populations are also noted.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by ideas42

The following post was originally published on the ideas42 blog.

For many of us, saving enough for retirement remains a murky, unrealized goal. Behavioral science has already proven useful in some ways, but there are still many opportunities to apply a behavioral lens to better preparing for the future.

In Mexico, not putting aside enough for retirement is a persistent problem for many people. As a result, 27 percent of the nation’s elderly live in poverty. While recent reforms to the retirement system have provided more Mexicans with individual retirement accounts than ever before, mandatory contribution rates remain too low to provide for post-retirement living expenses. To cover the rest, the system currently allows people to make voluntary contributions to their individual accounts. The problem is that they don’t: currently, less than 1 percent of the 50 million account holders make at least one contribution each year.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Can the world achieve full financial inclusion by 2020? By the Numbers: Benchmarking Progress Toward Financial Inclusion, a new Financial Inclusion 2020 (FI2020) publication from CFI, offers a quantitative review of financial inclusion globally, using publicly available data to examine recent progress and projecting a scenario out to 2020.

Last month the development community emitted a collective cheer as the new Global Findex data revealed that the number of unbanked individuals around the world dropped from 2.5 billion to 2 billion between 2011 and 2014. This looks like huge progress. If the trends continue, the financial exclusion gap will close to 1 billion individuals without access to formal financial services by 2020.

However, know it’s not all about access. We promote financial inclusion to enable people to use financial services to better manage their lives. A fully included person is an active user of quality financial services that bring significant value. Expanding financial access is the first step towards financial inclusion, and it needs to be followed by an uptick in the frequency and ways in which people use services as well as strengthening of the financial ecosystem. By the Numbers explores progress in these areas along with access and estimates the potential for reaching full inclusion by 2020.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

Almost three decades ago, I walked into a meeting with a loan officer at a major bank in Boston. I was running a not-for-profit dance company that was well-respected, had good governance, and had a decent business plan—but hey, it was a not-for-profit dance company with no endowment and no certainty of surviving beyond its next show. We were not a good risk on paper. My job was to persuade the loan officer to give us an unsecured line of credit based solely on our business plan and his judgment of our ability to execute against that plan. He looked at our financials, but he also sized me up. This was not data analytics, this was the old-time community bank model of a decision based on a hand shake and a relationship, a sense of trust. Truth be told, the loan officer was biased in our favor. He really loved our work and believed in what we did. That plus a few well-placed board members had gotten me in the door where a company with a similar balance sheet and risk profile would have been left out in the cold.

A few years later, I landed in El Salvador where I formed lending groups among poor, illiterate women in the relatively early days of microfinance. “Ella es buena paga” was the phrase the women used to identify someone who was known as good for paying her debts. It meant that when a vendor in the marketplace or the owner of a corner store let a customer buy something on credit, she was good for it. On the basis of a reputation as “buena paga,” the lending group would allow a woman to join them. Needless to say, those who were known as “mala paga” would be blacklisted and not permitted to join the group.

Perhaps the greatest microcredit miracle of the last century was that, thanks to these lending groups, poor women who were credit invisible were revealed as credit worthy, identified as such through social relationships and their standing in the community. It was the kind of relationship-based credit decision that I and our dance company had benefited from in Boston, but that people at the base of the pyramid had always been excluded from.

Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Bruce MacDonald, Senior Vice President, Communications, Accion

My first love was Susan Morasky, but my second – and far more enduring – has been Africa. For that I credit Mrs. Walden, my third-grade teacher, who encouraged us to think big.

Sadly, even the loves of your life can let you down. In Nairobi last week to promote the Africa Board Fellowship, our new program on governance for sub-Saharan MFIs, all went well. Until, that is, I tried to go home. A 20-minute taxi ride to the airport became an hour, then two, then four.

I missed the KLM flight to Amsterdam, and of course the connecting flight home. As I sat in the cab, fuming in First-World frustration, I peppered the driver with questions. “What’s the cause of this?” Rain. “Can’t you go another way?” This is the only way. “Where are all the policemen directing traffic?” Incoherent response. And, finally, snippily, “How on earth do you people put up with this?” Obviously embarrassed, he finally stopped answering my questions.

Everything’s relative, especially in Africa – something I should have remembered, given the banking and finance conference I’d just come from, and the presentation by Amish Gupta, head of investment banking at Standard Investment Bank in Nairobi.

Read the rest of this entry »

Enter your email

Join 1,410 other followers

Financial Inclusion 2020 News Feed

In an effort to become the first stop for people interested in all matters regarding financial inclusion, each week the FI2020 team at CFI highlights compelling stories and content from across the web. Click here to visit the news feed.

Visit the CFI Website

Twitter Updates

Archives

Founding Sponsor


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.

Note

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.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,410 other followers