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> Posted by Ignacio Mas
All languages have a set of untranslatable words, single terms which capture feelings and experiences that in other languages take many words to convey. (I wonder: is there a word that conveys that in any language?)
One such word in Spanish is desamparo. Dictionaries triangulate it on the English meanings of abandonment, neglect, helplessness and distress. Abandonment comes closest: that feeling of not having anywhere else to go, of not finding anyone who even cares about your issue. It´s neglect and helplessness in its terminal stage. Its effect is more than just distress: it undermines one´s sense of humanity – that you are visible, that you have agency, that you count. Think Kafka.
We know that desamparo comes primarily from inescapable power and bureaucracy, but can technology lead us down the path of greater desamparo? When we look at this question, we tend to focus on those unfamiliar with or without access to modern technologies. But undesirable as any form of exclusion is, such desamparo will only result if the use of the technology is inescapable. So what financial inclusionistas must not do is set our goal to be the eradication of alternatives (going entirely cashless, eliminating informal or semi-formal financial services). You don´t include people by excluding solutions.
But there is another type of technology-induced desamparo, and that´s the one I am feeling right now. Let me explain.
> Posted by Lisa Kienzle and Gigi Gatti, Grameen Foundation
Women make great digital financial service (DFS) agents: they are often savvy at managing liquidity, effective at building trust, and perhaps most importantly, they are more effective at onboarding other women into DFS than men. This makes the recruitment and training of women agents an important strategy for closing the gender gaps in digital financial services and technology, and for ultimately ensuring universal financial inclusion.
Men in developing markets still outpace women in account ownership by 9 percent. The technology gap is even larger – women are 14 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men. Given the growing emphasis on digital solutions to drive financial inclusion, this technology gap could further widen the financial services gender divide if not explicitly taken into account in the design of digital solutions. Women agents are a crucial element of that design.
> Posted by Alex Silva, Executive Director, Calmeadow, and Jeffrey Riecke, Senior Communications Specialist, CFI
Impact investors, social investors, responsible investors…regardless of name, they claim to serve the greater good. In the world of financial inclusion, impact investors are supporting the development of financial markets that have inadequately served the base of the economic pyramid.
What happens when social investors exit from their financial inclusion investments?
Some exits are non-controversial, but what if responsible investors sell their stake to an investor that doesn’t place priority on the social mission? The risk of mission drift or abandonment is real, and responsible investors must consider it as they make their exit decisions. With financial inclusion sector trends suggesting that impact investing exits are going to become more frequent, it’s worth examining the topic in greater detail.
Investors exit for many reasons
It’s important, especially for critics of impact investors, to recognize that a decision to exit may arise from any number of factors, including factors internal to the investor.
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> Posted by Virginia Moore, Communications Director, CFI
Last week, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) participated in LendIt USA, an annual conference that brings together leaders and startups in fintech, lending, and venture capital to discuss trends, innovations, and the future of the industry.
So, what were we doing there? We attended to help introduce what we do to this audience of over 5,000 people, partnering with LendIt organizers to launch its very first financial inclusion track. CFI managing director Elisabeth Rhyne spoke on a panel about responsible credit along with representatives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Marketplace Lending Association, LendStreet, and AEO. Championing the Smart Campaign and consumer protections, Beth brought a global perspective on what responsible credit looks like in practice. She also debated the elephant in the room—or as she put it, “the dead cat on the table:” interest rates. Our director of research Sonja Kelly also moderated a lively session on how smartphones in emerging markets are expanding access to credit with executives from Branch, Cignifi, Juvo, and PayJoy. We’ll have more on these sessions soon.
It was exciting and satisfying to see so much interest in financial inclusion from conference attendees who may not readily know the definition of financial inclusion, appreciate its value, or recognize how they’re contributing to it.
What Is the Value of Financial Inclusion to Fintech and Investor Communities?
One of the most surprising unveilings at the recent Mobile World Congress was the Nokia 3310, a reboot of a 17 year-old feature phone that stands out as intentionally basic amidst a dizzying world of smartphone bells and whistles. This phone boasts no cinema-quality camera, no super-fast internet, and no Candy Crush. In exchange, it offers a month-long battery life, a simplified user interface, and a price point of $49.
To me, this phone is a signal to emerging markets that the mobile industry has not forgotten that much of the world—about 37 percent of people in developing markets and 24 percent of people in developed markets, according to GSMA—will still not be using a smartphone by 2020. These populations are not making the shift for reasons like cost, battery life, and connectivity limitations. For them, the Nokia 3310 is a promising announcement.
In his research on the technology infrastructure surrounding digital financial services, CFI Fellow Leon Perlman points out that while feature phones are not disappearing any time soon, the choices for feature phones and options for people who need them repaired are shrinking. Perlman’s research, which will come out later this spring, underscores the need for the mobile industry to continue to provide valuable infrastructure to people who have not switched to smartphones. He cites the continued prevalence of USSD-based mobile money interfaces, which feature phones can utilize and which do not require internet connection, as a major incentive for continued investment in technology infrastructure for feature phones. If people cannot safely and effectively access their mobile wallets without switching to shiny new smartphones, mobile money will cease to be as inclusive as it claims to be.
> Posted by Pablo Anton-Diaz, Research Manager, CFI, and Sergio Navajas, Senior Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank
Financial institutions in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region are not investing in fintechs. Over the years the financial institutions in the region have demonstrated their willingness to adopt creative new solutions, such as microcredit and agent banking in the quest to advance financial inclusion. But with fintech solutions, compared to institutions in other regions, Latin American financers have been reluctant to invest. Why?
> Posted by Jason Loughnane, Special Projects Manager, DAWN
In 2011, a SIM card in Myanmar cost $1,500 and mobile phones were used by less than 5 percent of the population. Following the entry of two foreign mobile operators in 2011, the price of a SIM card dropped to $1.50. Today, over 90 percent of the country’s population has a cell phone, and over 80 percent of those users have smartphones. And yet, only 6 percent of the population uses a formal financial institution, making the country ripe for adoption of mobile financial services.
> Posted by Sonja Kelly, Director of Research, CFI
We’ve been running the CFI Fellows Program for almost two years, with generous funding this year from the Rockefeller Foundation. The program has been a terrific experiment for many reasons. Now, while our current cohort of fellows is hard at work conducting their research, is a great time to stop and share some lessons we’ve learned along the way. The findings emerging from the program have also quickly become part of the continued learning and development of our expertise as an organization. Our staff engage closely with the fellows as they work, drawing from and contributing to their expert-level knowledge. And, on a personal level, I have come to understand financial inclusion in new ways.
As we’ve sourced topics, selected fellows, and engaged with knowledge communities, we have learned a great deal about people, organizations, technology and global trends. (You can see some of the specific findings coming out of the program here.) We also have gleaned observations about the nature of inquiry in financial inclusion, who cares about deeply understanding financial inclusion, and why financial inclusion matters.
Here are the top 10 things that I’ve learned thus far in the process of working on the CFI Fellows Program.
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