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> Posted by Danielle Piskadlo, Manager, Investing in Inclusive Finance, CFI

Fifteen years ago in the microfinance space you may have been able to get away with understanding very little about your clients. Without much competition, MFIs could probably still make a decent profit by offering one product to all their clients using only one delivery channel. Thankfully, those days are gone.

The base of the pyramid is no longer a hidden or forgotten market segment. In fact, according to the recently-released 2014 Microfinance Banana Skins report, the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. Overindebtedness once again tops the charts as the biggest perceived risk, perhaps indicating that many clients are now able to gain access to multiple services providers. In some areas, an excess of providers may now be crowding the market.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Rwanda has a lot to celebrate in terms of financial inclusion these days. Last week in Kigali the National Bank of Rwanda (NBR) hosted a conference in partnership with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) commemorating their 50-year anniversary. At the event, titled Financial Inclusion for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, NBR Governor John Rwangombwa highlighted the country’s recent rise in access levels, from 48 to 72 percent between 2008 and 2012 across formal and informal providers. Rwanda now has the laudable goal of increasing this figure to 90 percent by 2020. To help it get there, on Friday the World Bank launched a $2.25 million program supporting key financial inclusion areas for the country.

Along with overall exclusion rates dropping from 52 to 28 percent over 2008 to 2012, formal services access increased from 21 to 42 percent during the same period, according to the 2012 FinScope Rwanda Survey. The new government goal of 90 percent access by 2020 is an extension of the country’s Maya Declaration Commitment of 80 percent access by 2017. Rwanda’s growth in formal access can be attributed to products offered by both banks and non-bank providers, like the country’s community savings and credit cooperatives known as Umurenge SACCOs. Over the past three years, Umurenge SACCOs have attracted over 1.6 million customers. Ninety percent of Rwandans live within a 5 km radius of one of the cooperatives. Countrywide, the number of MFIs, including Umurenge SACCOs, increased from 125 to 491 between 2008 and December 2013. Elsewhere in the sector, over the last three years, the number of banks increased from 10 to 14, the number of insurance companies increased from 9 to 13, and the number of pension providers increased from 41 to 56.

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> Posted by Center Staff

This edition of top picks features posts on how to effectively deploy new technologies to the base of the pyramid, the increasing prominence of mobile savings and credit services, and the growing potential for impact investing in microinsurance.

How can innovative technologies be distributed and adopted at scale in the last mile? Tomohiro Hamakawa of Kopernik addresses this question in a new post on Next Billion. Drawing from a recent Kopernik report, Hamakawa expounds on five key factors to serve as guiding principles in the roll-out of empowering technologies to the BoP: activating a local network of trust; lowering financial barriers; riding the technology adoption wave; focusing on tangible benefits; and staying engaged, showing commitment.

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> Posted by Juan Blanco, Associate, Financial Inclusion 2020, CFI

A few weeks ago J.P. Morgan made a $30 million commitment to create the Financial Solutions Lab, a move representative of the growing recognition among all financial stakeholders of the importance of financial capability.

The Financial Solutions Lab, a five-year initiative, will be managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and it seeks to bring together experts in behavioral economics, design, technology, and nonprofit services in order to develop innovative and scalable financial products and services that strengthen client financial capability and well-being. Ideo.org and ideas42 are to serve as strategic partners on the initiative. By bringing these stakeholders together, the Lab aims to identify new ways in which customers can improve credit behavior, increase savings, and build assets.

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> Posted by Amanda Lotz, Financial Inclusion 2020 Consultant, CFI

Javier moved from Honduras to the United States with his wife and their children in search of better work opportunities and to escape the violence in their community. His parents chose to stay behind. Luisa moved from the Philippines to Canada to pursue more lucrative opportunities as a nurse, hoping to support her family back home. Yousef fled from Syria to Lebanon, as a refugee, to escape civil unrest.

Javier, Luisa, and Yousef – fictitious characters – are only symbolically representative of some of the enormous global migrant population – estimated to total 232 million people in 2013. Certainly not homogenous, their reasons for leaving their home country can vary tremendously and may include economic opportunities, natural disasters, and security or political concerns.

In spite of the complications of migrating, there is an undeniable and increasing opportunity for financial service providers to serve migrants and their families. Today, I will focus primarily on migrants who move for economic and employment opportunities, though we recognize that these issues are more nuanced for migrants like Yousef who have fled their country of origin for the sake of their safety. I will save this smaller subset, 7 percent of all migrants, for another post. Though, I will mention that MasterCard has an innovative partnership with Banque Libano-Française for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which you can read more about here.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

What’s the percentage of MFI clients worldwide that are LGBT? How about the percentage of staff at MFIs? Broader yet, how inclusive is the financial services industry of queer and trans people?

As you’d probably guess, concrete answers to these questions aren’t available. And even raising the issue is controversial in many countries. Over the past year anti-gay legislation was enacted in Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and India. The notion of financial institutions working towards LGBT-inclusive operations is far off in many countries.

But here in the U.S. (and in other areas worldwide) change is happening, as demonstrated at the Out on the Street Summit last week in New York City. The event, part of the Out on the Street initiative, featured senior leadership from some of the largest financial services providers in the world, including Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, and Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard. Held on May 1, the event focused on business opportunities and leadership strategies for and within the LGBT community, as well as the financial services industry’s role in advancing LGBT equality.

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The huge potential for digital finance to reach the last mile of the financially excluded

> Posted by Peer Stein, Director, IFC Access to Finance Advisory 

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. This blog series spotlights financial inclusion efforts around the globe, shares insights from the FI2020 consultative process and highlights findings from “Mapping the Invisible Market.”

Last week’s seminar on digital finance at the 2014 World Bank Group / IMF Spring Meetings convened innovators, private sector leaders, and government representatives to discuss the potential innovative business models and new technologies have in reaching and empowering the financially excluded poor and small businesses faster and with greater scale, while contributing significantly to the World Bank Group goal of universal access to finance by year 2020. The session highlighted the diversity of business models that use technology to reach the excluded market segment, showcased by innovators from bKash in Bangladesh, Airtel Money-Africa, and Berlin-based Mobisol operating in rural East Africa.

I’d like to share three key points that emerged from the forum.

First, multi-stakeholder collaboration is a must.

None of the featured innovators is a traditional bank or financial institution but each one realizes the importance of partnering with banks and other players in this dynamic space. For example, bKash was born from a fusion of BRAC Bank and Money in Motion, and continues to operate as a subsidiary of BRAC Bank, holding 80 percent of the mobile money market in Bangladesh. With such an adoption success within two and a half years, recording 90,000 digital money agents and 11.6 million registered users, in the words of Kamal Quadir, CEO, “bKash is now a Bengali verb [synonymous with ‘to send money’].” Chidi Okpala, Director of Airtel Money-Africa, a mobile money service with an active base of 5 million customers, reinforced that one of the factors of success in this diverse market is the need to position your mobile money service for stakeholder collaboration rather than competition. The real competitor is cash. Walt Macnee, president of the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, emphasized the company’s connecting and collaborative role focused on ensuring interoperable platforms among a diversity of players.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Jeroo Billimoria of Global Money Week, a worldwide child and youth financial empowerment movement, recently said, “Want to ensure poor children mature into poor adults? Make sure they spend all their leftover cash.” To me, that simple statement captures the obvious case for advancing financial inclusion for children and youth. Youth save at dismal rates and lack adequate access to formal financial services. Global Money Week, expected to span 112 countries, 485 organizations, and 2 million children, aims to combat this reality.

The weeklong movement, now in its third year, is led by Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), a global network working towards the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of children and youth. Global Money Week’s participants range from central banks, to government ministers, schools, NGOs, the media, and children. Its activities include bank visits, educational events, expert discussions, online engagements, and the launching of new research and initiatives.

One of the new reports launched in coincidence with Global Money Week is Banking a New Generation: Developing Responsible Retail Banking Products for Children and Youth, a joint-publication from MasterCard and Child & Youth Finance International. The publication is designed to support financial institutions, NGOs, and governments in collaboratively developing financial products and services appropriate for children and youth. Among the publication’s content are guiding principles for appropriate child and youth products, the case for financial institutions investing in this client segment, and considerations for the product development process.

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> Posted by Ajay Banga, President and Chief Executive Officer, MasterCard

The following post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Buzz Aldrin On The MoonOrganizations 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 »

Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard Worldwide presents MasterCard’s perspective on the FI2020 Global Forum

FI2020_day_1_by_John_Cairns_28.10.13-169

Part 2 – Challenges and Next Steps

Measuring success

You’ve got to measure success in some way. For example, measuring the reduction of cash in the economy, and the increased number of people with some kind of digitized account. All these measures of success will be very important. So that’s what I think is going on here at the FI 2020 Global Forum – a network of like-minded people are coming together to create the right partnerships, both public-private as well as private-private.

Developing public-private partnerships

I’ve learnt that public-private partnerships are really tough, because 30% of money that is going to the 2.5 billion financially excluded is government money. So you need the government participating in the system and the discussion in some way.  Governments can also play a role in the way they create identities for people. Identities mean that companies can deal with them without the fear of facilitating illegal activity, and therefore there are many sides to this that the public-private partnership is very important for.

‘If you don’t set a goal, you won’t start working towards it’

That’s what Accion’s doing here – bringing together a network of people. So where’s it going to go? I don’t know yet. There’s this goal put out recently by the World Bank and the IFC saying ‘hey, let’s go for reaching financial inclusion by 2020’ – that’s a pretty big goal. You’ve got 2.5 billion people who today don’t participate in the mainstream – can you achieve that in 7 years? I don’t know. But I think if you don’t set a goal, you won’t start going towards it. And I think that’s the advantage of a goal like this, it fires everybody’s imagination and puts some energy into the system. I’m hoping that we will build on events like this – this won’t be the only one, there are going to be tons of these caused by that goal. I think that’s the key here.

A focus on financially excluded youth and women

You’ve got to be committed to doing this because close to the 40% of those financially excluded in the world are young people, below the age of 34. Close to 50% of them are women, and they’re not all rural – half of them are urban and half of them are rural. And half of these people have a job. In many ways, these are people like us.

We just have to realize that 2.5 billion people out of 7 billion are leading a life that’s different from yours and mine. I think we need to go out of this room saying ‘boy, I’m not going to let that carry on. I can make a difference to one, two, three million people’. I think that’s the deal – people here have to go back thinking this. It won’t happen at one event, but it will happen at a number of these.

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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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