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> Posted by Dave Grace, Managing Partner, Dave Grace & Associates
This week I received my self-addressed postcard from the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum reminding me of my personal commitment to help ensure the safety of consumers’ savings and rights as they join the financial system. My first reaction was how slow the post is, but on deeper reflection I recognized that the postcard arrived just at a time when I needed a reminder of my commitment.
In addition to the new connections made at the Global Forum, two comments stood out for me; one was rooted in the past and the other in the future.
Remembering the Past
When Michel Khalaf from MetLife described the company’s roots as an insurer for the working class and the legions of agents who went door-to-door collecting weekly premiums of $.05 or $.10 and dispensing financial advice, I instantly understood something important about my grandfather. Until then, I had just thought of him as a MetLife agent in the steel belt towns of the northeastern U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. He left school at age nine to help the family make ends meet when his own father prematurely passed away. He first worked shoulder-to-shoulder in the coal mines with many other immigrants. His math skills and ability to work across ethnic groups enabled him to leave the mines and become a top agent for MetLife. He knew firsthand how dangerous the mining work was and how a temporary or permanent injury could be a huge setback for these vulnerable families. Once the Great Depression hit and people could not access their deposits in banks, many of his clients turned to my grandfather for financial help. He had some liquidity and became a de facto deposit insurer, paying people what he could and in the process becoming a larger creditor of the illiquid banks.
Anticipating the Future
While Michel Khalaf’s comments helped me piece together my own family history, what stood out more was the collective prediction by attendees in London that the most important story in the next five years will be the presence of a “bank run” on mobile money.
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.
> Posted by Center Staff
This edition of Top Picks features posts highlighting findings from new research on the global mobile money industry and on remittances in Africa and Asia, as well as a post on how innovation can encourage savings at the base of the pyramid.
A new post on GSMA’s Mobile Money for the Unbanked Blog shares preliminary findings from the MMU 2013 Global Mobile Money Adoption Survey. The Adoption Survey, which offers insights on the development of mobile money services and how they’re enabling the expansion of financial inclusion, will be published at the 2014 GSMA Mobile World Congress, February 24-27 in Barcelona. These preliminary findings included a few industry milestones. A few weeks ago the global industry surpassed 200 mobile money service deployments to total 208 services spread across 83 developing countries. Mobile money services are become a mainstay among mobile network operators, rather than a differentiator. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, mobile money is available in 36 out of the 47 countries in the region.
In Africa and Asia, domestic remittances may far surpass international remittances in both frequency and magnitude, two recent joint-reports from the Gates Foundation and Gallup found. That’s the subject of a new post on the Financial Access Initiative Blog, which details the reports’ key results and provides a brief overview of domestic remittances, internal migration, and how they relate. The reports revealed that across the 11 surveyed countries, 14 percent of people had sent money to family or friends within the country within the previous 30 days, and that 32 percent of these respondents had been on the receiving end of such a money transfer. In contrast, one to two percent of people reported sending an international remittance, and about three percent reported receiving an international remittance, in the previous 30 days.
> Posted by Solana Cozzo, LAC Prepaid Head, Senior Business Leader, MasterCard Worldwide
The Financial Inclusion 2020 project at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”
Promoting the delivery of solutions that boost the financial inclusion agenda, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), is a shared goal that I am truly passionate about. Thankfully, advancing financial inclusion is a key driver at MasterCard, and through my affiliation with organizations such as Accion and the FI2020 movement, I am a firsthand witness to many effective programs that are moving our region, and our world, closer to being financially inclusive.
Notable work has been done recently in the government-to-person (G2P) payments space in LAC. Through efforts in this region, as well as elsewhere, there is now little doubt that in countries where financial payments infrastructure is underdeveloped the introduction of government electronic disbursement schemes via public-private partnerships helps spark the growth of broader payments and financial services ecosystems that benefit many.
In Brazil, for example, switching to electronic benefits cards helped reduce the administrative costs of Bolsa Familia (Brazil’s social welfare program) nearly seven-fold, from 14.7 percent to 2.6 percent of grant value disbursed. Overall, CGAP estimated that switching from cash to electronic delivery via agent networks generates roughly 40 percent in savings per transaction – cost savings that can be used to serve the poor.
In Argentina, the integration of electronic disbursements not only facilitates greater scope and convenience, but also provides a sense of dignity and security. The percentage of social benefits recipients who said they paid a bribe to local officials to access their benefit dropped from about 4 percent to less than 0.5 percent after the Ministry of Social Development moved to an electronic benefits card. An estimated additional US$11 million now gets into the hands of intended recipients.
Another notable electronic social payments initiative in LAC, which demonstrates the integral role of industry players alongside government, is from Davivienda, a local bank in Colombia. Davivienda is integrating their Daviplata mobile banking service into social benefits disbursements. The use of mobile money in social benefits programs has gained significant popularity in Colombia. In fact, about a third of all disbursements of Familias en Accion, the biggest conditional cash transfer program in Colombia, are now utilizing mobile technology.
> Posted by Ignacio Mas, Independent Consultant
Remote payments usually are the beachhead for mobile money as it struggles to create a role for itself alongside cash in developing countries. It’s easier to create customer awareness, induce customer experimentation, and generate customer willingness to pay when you are addressing situations in which cash presents the biggest pain points – sending money home, paying bills at distant and busy utility offices, travelling with or delivering larger stashes of money.
But that’s a limited market. Those are not daily occurrences for most people. And in many markets, especially outside of Africa, the reality is that people already have decent domestic remittance or bill payment mechanisms – through networks of pawnshops in the Philippines, courier companies in Colombia, or Hawala in Afghanistan.
Now mobile money providers are itching to get into the merchant (i.e. in-store) payment space. That’s where you can drive daily as opposed to monthly usage, so that’s where the volume is.
Of payment volumes and value
Much of the discussion on mobile retail payments centers on pricing models (merchant fees, interchange, potential cannibalization of P2P pricing), usability issues (customer convenience, speeding up transactions at the store), and acquiring strategy (how to roll out devices at stores and at what cost). These issues arise because cash is a much stronger competitor here than in a remote setting: paying some cents and waiting some seconds for an SMS confirmation are an irrelevance when you are sending money halfway across the country, but can tax people’s sense of fairness and patience in a retail setting. The less value people and stores see in electronic payments the larger these issues will loom.
But treat these as hygiene factors. Imagine that you could buy half a kilo of rice at any corner store from your mobile wallet at no cost and as conveniently as you flash out a banknote. Still, the fundamental question remains: why would you take out of your pocket your mobile phone rather a banknote?
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
Safeguards are taken in nearly all systems that handle personal information to try to keep confidential information confidential. But of course the success of these safeguards varies widely, as they’re contingent on any number of factors. Two such factors that are integral in considering the safety of information are the systems through which they travel and the places where they’re stored. Increasingly, the days of pen, paper, and filing cabinets are gone, and the days of computerized devices, satellites, and servers are here. For data enthusiasts, this creates an ocean of new opportunities. For privacy and security cautioners, this creates an equal number of new threats.
A recent report from the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Mobile Privacy and Information Security in Global Development Projects investigates concerns regarding personal information privacy and security, specifically within mobile phone-based development projects. The report asserts that by and large there are no best practices or guidelines in this development space, and that key risks here are rarely addressed.
In an effort to combat this, the report highlights pertinent privacy issues raised by such projects, investigates tangible privacy concerns in the developing world, and offers recommendations and best practices to support the integration of privacy safeguards into project planning and implementation.
As you might expect, the paper identifies some of the privacy risks of mobile financial services. Mobile money projects, like many other development initiatives, are often structured as public-private partnerships. As client data is shared between more project partners, the chances for it to be intercepted or leaked increases.
> Posted by Center Staff
Borrowing money from family, friends, or acquaintances is nothing new, of course. Whether it’s a spur of the moment decision or a more structured arrangement, sidestepping a formal financial institution for at least some of your cash flow needs can be attractive.
The technology community has started to recognize an opportunity in entering this space. Puddle, a smart phone application-based service that allows you to create a “bank” with your friends, was launched late last year.
With Puddle, you and your friends form a collective bank, contributing funds, deciding who can be members, and what the borrowing interest rates will be. The service is set up so that the profit made off of interest is distributed back amongst group members. Puddle is still in early launch stages, but currently you can request an invitation to try it out. Here’s a screen shot of what the browser-based interface looks like. It’s advertised that no fees or applications are associated with the service. A similar smart phone application-based social lending service, Lendstar, currently in beta, was launched earlier this year.
Would you be willing to use an app service and lend money to your friends? One detail that isn’t clear for either app was what happens when someone defaults on their loan repayments. An important detail…depending on who your friends are.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
If you regularly follow financial inclusion news, you probably come across articles on the financial inclusion progress of particular countries all the time. Just today I read headlines on the extent of inclusion in Bangladesh as compared to other South Asian countries, on the growing mass of mobile money subscribers in Kenya, and on life insurance penetration in India. Last week we added to the conversation with a post on Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategy. Keeping track of all these national developments is a challenge, even for those of us who have the opportunity to focus much of our attention on financial inclusion.
Earlier this month AFI released the National Financial Inclusion Strategy Timeline, a document that chronicles the steps AFI member institutions have taken in recent years to develop and implement national financial inclusion strategies in their countries – a resource any of us financial inclusion media junkies can embrace. Created by AFI’s Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group (FISPLG), the timeline is organized by region and lists national-level developments for 28 countries from 2007 to the present. Here’s the Sub-Saharan Africa region section.
In looking at the timeline, a few trends quickly come to the surface. Not surprisingly, there’s been an increase in inclusion activity among central banks and financial regulatory institutions in the past few years. Specifically in 2013, a number of countries have drafted or implemented national strategies, including the Philippines, Thailand, Belarus, Turkey, Nepal, and Tanzania. Another trend expressed in the timeline is the rise of branchless banking, with many countries developing guidelines for agent and mobile banking.