> Posted by Center Staff

2017 was certainly an eventful year. And our year at CFI was no exception. Through our CFI Fellows Program and partnership with the Institute of International Finance, Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion, we produced thought-provoking research on fintech partnerships, the role of human touch in a digital age, breakthroughs in insurance and more. In the client protection area, 24 financial institutions were Smart Certified, bringing the total number of certified institutions to 94. The Africa Board Fellowship Program continued to make a difference at the governance level of financial institutions across Africa, and now roughly 200 CEOs and board members have participated in the program. And more…

Before we celebrate the New Year, we wanted to pause and look back at some of our favorite moments of 2017.

Financial Health as a Global Framework

We developed a new model for assessing financial health. The financial health framework was developed through a project led by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with CFI and Dalberg as partners. The framework offers a globally applicable model for financial health that includes six indicators of financial health and four contributing factors that are particularly relevant to the developing world.

Modelo Perú: Unique Model, Unique Challenges, Bright Future

In partnership with the Institute of International Finance (IIF), we assessed Modelo Perú, the first nationwide interoperable payments initiative and produced an issue brief that reviews the challenges and highlights possible solutions – ranging from improving incentives for banking agents to penetrating rural areas to engaging with nationwide consumer goods distributors.

The Smart Campaign Tackles Digital

The Smart Campaign launched the Fintech Protects Community of Practice, a group of providers who will collaborate to build industry will and know-how to address emerging consumer risks in digital financial services. The Campaign also released a brief, “Tiny Loans, Big Questions,” on the most pressing consumer protection risks of digital loans.

It’s All About Governance – In Africa and Beyond

The Africa Board Fellowship (ABF) Program has matured, and has now built a community of board members and CEOs of financial institutions across the continent who consult each other when they need to think through a challenge or find out what’s happening in other places. To date, roughly 200 CEOs and board members have participated. Revisit this year’s seminars and discussions through photos, blog posts and video. Also held this year was the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Governance and Strategic Leadership Seminar, a short program on governance in the region, incorporating the peer-exchange model developed through ABF.

A Partnership for Responsible Financial Inclusion

The Microfinance CEO Working Group changed its name to the Partnership for Responsible Financial Inclusion (PRFI), recognizing that it is no longer a working group, but a deep and active partnership committed to advancing financial inclusion in a responsible manner. For more, here’s the PRFI’s annual report, which details the group’s key accomplishments and activities of the past year.

Strategic Leadership During Uncertain Times

The Harvard Business School – Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance convened for its 12th year, bringing together 71 financial inclusion leaders spanning 30 countries to prepare themselves to meet some of the most pressing challenges facing the industry. Among the themes hottest for participants that week were: the role of the biggest players in driving the financial inclusion sector; coping with volatile political scenarios; and contesting data ownership.

Global Momentum for Consumer Protection

Twenty-four financial institutions were Smart Certified in 2017, bringing the total number of certified institutions to 94, who collectively serve over 41 million clients. The Campaign published the Consumer Protection Resource Kit and new promotional videos sharing the journey to Smart Certification of four Smart Certified institutions. Financial institutions can use these resources to explain the value of client protection to the parties they work with.

FIEC Spoke Out on Impact Investing Issues

The Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC, of which CFI is the secretariat) released two new reports. Valuing Microfinance Institutions: Where Are We Now? provides a snapshot on how valuation of socially-focused financial institutions has evolved over the last decade. Offshore Financial Centers for Financial Inclusion: A Marriage of Convenience examines how and why impact investors decide to use offshore financial centers.

How Financial Institutions and Fintechs Are Partnering for Inclusion

Our joint-report with the IIF on fintech-bank partnerships took a critical look at how financial institutions are organizing to take advantage of the great opportunity of collaborating with fintechs, and the challenges they face in doing so. The report includes case studies that dive into the mechanics of 14 effective fintech-bank partnerships working at the base of the pyramid in emerging markets.

CFI Fellows Investigated Mobile Money, Human Touch, and Agent Banking

Leon Perlman released his CFI Fellows report looking at the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges of the existing and evolving mobile technologies, services, platforms, and user devices. Alexis Beggs Olsen investigated how comfortable consumers in Kenya are with digital financial services and when they most need to speak to a person, to best leverage human touch in Kenya’s digital financial services landscape, while Misha Sharma and Shreya Chatterjee examined whether banking agents in India are equipped to help their low-end consumers transition to using digital services.

We thank you for your support this year and for all your efforts to advance financial inclusion around the world. We wish you all the best for the New Year.

Image credits: Accion