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Customer research offers insights into the drop in financial product usage in Mexico.

> Posted by Pablo Antón-Diaz, Research Manager, CFI

Man sells fish at a stall in an outdoor market

Fish market on San Gregario Street in Xochimilco, a southeastern municipality of Mexico City, one of the places we visited for our user research.

According to the Global Findex, the percentage of adults in Mexico who are saving money at a formal institution plunged from 15 percent to 10 percent in just the past three years—despite financial inclusion strategies enacted by the government. This steep decline in usage of savings accounts came as a surprise, and hit close to home for me as a Mexican. This trend is a cause for concern, and it’s also a call to action. At Accion, we took this as an opportunity to listen to the people we’d like to see benefit from financial services. With support of MetLife Foundation, we wanted to understand why fewer people were saving in banks, what products and services people were using, and who was providing those services if it wasn’t formal institutions.

To get answers about what people in Mexico want from their financial service providers, I recently traveled home to Mexico City as part of a team of researchers. We listened to small merchants map out their entire financial lives—their motivations, goals and aspirations, how they feel about various types of financial services, the strategies they use to stay financially healthy, and more.

Our biggest surprise? The individuals we talked with know about and can access a lot of financial products—they just aren’t using them.

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This blog from Accion in the U.S. was originally posted on NextBillion and is re-published here with permission.

By Gina Harman, CEO, Accion in the U.S., and Liz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity International

The field of microfinance arose to address a pressing problem in emerging markets: Billions of people around the globe were shut out of, or poorly served by, the financial sector. But while microfinance institutions grew rapidly around the globe, so too did economic inequality in developed countries. It was within this context that organizations like Accion in the U.S. and Opportunity Fund adapted the microlending model to the United States more than two decades ago, expanding access to economic opportunity for entrepreneurs who lacked the financing and resources they needed to start or grow their businesses. In the ensuing years, the mission-based lending industry has continued to expand its services across the country – even in times of economic recession.

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30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of a blog series spotlighting the perspectives and experiences of CEOs and board members of financial institutions, as well as industry experts, who have participated in CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship program.

ABF Fellows discussion at table

ABF Fellows group discussion. November 2016.

> Posted by Danielle Piskadlo, Director, CFI

Few countries have escaped socio-political unrest, conflict or periods of crisis. As the consequences of such events can be severe for both financial service providers and their customers, it behooves every board and CEO to consider how they might prepare themselves to respond when the political environment around them deteriorates.

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30784872334_b499dfc281_mThe following is part of a blog series spotlighting the perspectives and experiences of CEOs and board members of financial institutions, as well as industry experts, who have participated in CFI’s Africa Board Fellowship program.

> Posted by Alexis Beggs Olsen, Consultant and CFI Fellow

The mention of overheated credit markets sends chills up the spine of anyone who lived through the crises in Bosnia, Andhra Pradesh, Morocco, or Nicaragua, where market saturation played a prominent role. While regulators and investors have key responsibilities in avoiding these crises, boards of financial service providers (FSPs) must also steer their organizations carefully when more companies enter the space to compete for the same customers. And since portfolio at risk at 30 days (PAR30) is a lagging indicator in the earlier stages of a credit market cycle—growth and high liquidity mask debt stress for a time—boards have to be more creative about how to understand what is actually happening.

Woman explains graphic harvest visualization of client centricity and competition.

We spoke with two Africa Board Fellowship alumni from Uganda, ECLOF Board Chairman Vincent Kaheeru and UGAFODE Board Member Olive Kabatalya, to capture their insights on governing in a competitive environment. “There are about 2,000 institutions [in Uganda] that could pass for microfinance institutions,” explained Vincent. “It’s quite a complicated market because there are both big and small players. Even the big banks target the smallest savers and borrowers.”

Based on their experience, Vincent and Olive offered other board members the following guidance:
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Report cover pageNew CFI/IIF report examines the role that alternative data plays in helping mainstream financial institutions reach underserved customers.

>> Posted by Tess Johnson, Research Associate, CFI

With the explosive growth of data and the breakneck pace of digitization, mainstream financial service providers (FSPs) are increasingly turning to new and alternative data sources and analytics tools to more efficiently reach emerging markets and help bring the world’s 1.7 billion underserved people into the formal financial system. This “new data,” largely separate from traditional credit bureau data, represents a tremendous opportunity for commercial banks to identity new customers, many of whom were previously “credit invisible,” and to better understand and serve the needs of their existing client base. However, the path to greater data utilization is not always clear, as FSPs must weigh the benefits of embracing a data-centric approach with significant operational challenges, including changing a risk-adverse banking culture, recruiting top technical talent, upgrading legacy IT infrastructure and navigating a complex regulatory environment. Building upon in-depth interviews with banks, fintechs and other actors, Accelerating Financial Inclusion with New Data—the newest joint report from the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) and the Institute of International Finance (IIF), supported by MetLife Foundation—examines the data landscape and evaluates the progress FSPs have made in innovating around data and areas where they have faced obstacles. Read the rest of this entry »

What if your employer told you that your next paycheck would come in the form of  Bitcoin. How would you react?

Woman using mobile phone in olive farm

> Posted by By Chrissy Martin, U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID
Note: This post originally appeared on ICTworks and is re-posted here with permission.

Do farmers really want to be paid in mobile money? To answer this question, I’ll ask you to first entertain a brief thought experiment.

Imagine that your employer told you that next pay period, your company will start paying you in Bitcoin.  How would you react?  Sure you’ve heard about Bitcoin, but you have lots of questions as to what it will mean to receive your salary this way, such as:

  • Am I getting swindled?!
  • Where can I use bitcoin?
  • Can I spend it like dollars, or will I have to convert into dollars first?
  • Where can I convert?
  • How much is the conversion fee?
  • Will I be paid into my same bank account?

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The new Gallup Global Financial Health Study contributes significantly to our understanding of how to make financial inclusion work for customers. This dataset comes at the perfect time—right on the heels of the Global Findex—and with it, we can start to ask ourselves with humility if financial inclusion is leading to financial health.

> Posted by Sonja Kelly, CFI, and Evelyn Stark, MetLife Foundation

Bangladeshi children play in a backyard.Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the NextBillion Blog and is re-posted here with permission.
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Former CFPB staffer endorses consumer protection and we couldn’t agree more.

> Posted by Beth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Arjan Schutte, a venture capitalist and head of Core Innovation Capital, was recently asked to resign from his advisory role with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – as were all the other members. This prompted Schutte to make the following statement about his belief in the importance of consumer protection regulation:
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Woman holds POS device

Demand for credit in Africa exceeds supply, despite the rise in mobile money. Yet start-ups, growing daily in number, are at risk of accelerating over-indebtedness, by supplying credit to clients without conducting appropriate repayment capacity analysis. Digital lenders need to understand the risks of over-indebtedness from a client perspective, and algorithms need to evolve to take this into account. Regulation also must guide good practice for fintech digital lenders.
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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne and Sonja E. Kelly, Managing Director and Director of Research, CFI

Where are we in achieving a financially inclusive world?

Financial inclusion momentum has slowed in the past three years, the 2017 Global Findex revealed. The financial inclusion community may wish to reflect on these results, recalibrate expectations, and then re-engage.

In a new report, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion journeys through the 2017 Global Findex data recently released by the World Bank, which assess progress toward financial inclusion on the basis of a 150-country study conducted by Gallup. We examined the 2017 Findex data from our own perspective, and although we found some good news, there are also some concerning trends.

In recent years, the headline for financial inclusion has been the percentage of adults in the world with accounts (either financial institution or mobile-based). That number has grown since 2014 to 69 percent – good news. But we believe it is more relevant, if less encouraging, to focus on the number of adults with active accounts, that is, accounts they have used at least once in the past year. That number is 55 percent, representing a net gain of 393 million active accounts between 2014 and 2017, a much more modest gain than the nearly 700 million total new accounts added in the previous three years (2011-2014).

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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.