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> Posted by Hannah Sherman, Project Associate, CFI

In a world of rapid change, few organizations have all the capabilities needed to accomplish every aspect of their business. This is true for commercial banks, which often find success in adapting to new opportunities through partnering. CFI’s most recent publication, The Business of Financial Inclusion: Insights from Banks in Emerging Markets, a joint publication with the Institute of International Finance (IIF), illustrates how banks use partners to adopt new technologies and reach previously underserved markets.

The report, based on interviews with the financial inclusion leads at 24 banks, shines a spotlight on the role of banks as leaders in financial inclusion and discusses their specific strategies related to technology, data, financial capability, partnerships, and other issues.

The report found that banks create a variety of partnerships. The banks in our survey partner with telcos, payments companies, insurance companies, microfinance institutions, retailers, and consumer-goods companies. They work closely with governments for G2P payments and with international development agencies and donors that provide start-up capital for new financial inclusion initiatives. They also contract with digital technology providers such as data analytics companies, back-office systems providers, digital channel providers, financial capability providers, and other fintech firms.

Among many other areas, banks often use partnerships to improve on the following:
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> Posted by Center Staff

We are excited to announce the dates for the second annual Financial Inclusion Week, which will take place during the week of October 17-21, 2016. That week organizations around the globe will host conversations focused on how to ensure that clients are empowered and protected in a financial ecosystem that has moved beyond brick and mortar to cell phones and internet delivery channels. Last year, from November 2-6, 34 partner organizations engaged in conversations worldwide to discuss the most pressing actions needed to advance financial inclusion globally. In 2016, we aim to continue these conversations and engage an even wider community of stakeholders to discuss this year’s theme: keeping clients first in a digital world.

With rapidly expanding use of mobile and smart phones, an unprecedented number of traditionally excluded or underserved people are accessing financial services for the first time. While this presents an amazing opportunity for providers, regulators, and consumers alike, clients must remain first in this newly digital world for benefits for all sides to be attained. Financial Inclusion Week will give the sector an organized framework to step back and ask what needs to happen for clients.

How can you get involved?

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> Posted by Sonja Kelly, Director, CFI

Some financial institutions are gradually recognizing the importance of making financial products fun, but does this strategy work to build financial capability? South African retail bank Absa tested this question when it designed and deployed a series of brief games, called “Shesha” (or “quick-quick” in Zulu). The games were a business necessity for Absa, as the cost of banking at a branch was between 3 and 40 times higher for customers than the cost of digital transactions. Too few of Absa’s customers were migrating from branch banking to digital, and many mobile money accounts were dormant. Equipping customers to more confidently choose and use digital services made business sense and responded to customer needs.

Absa sent text messages to select customers inviting them to participate in the Shesha game, which consisted of basic quiz questions. While standard text message rates applied to customers for playing, the response rate was significant—up to 15 percent of customers responded (compared to 2-3 percent response rates seen in most such efforts). The bank offered prizes to randomly-selected individuals who played and got the questions right, ranging from airtime top-ups to grand cash prizes.

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> Posted by Center Staff

After over a year of research, we at the Center are excited to launch A Change in Behavior: Innovations in Financial Capability, the result of a project funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. which assesses the landscape of financial capability-building interventions across the globe, with a special focus on Mexico and India. Highlighting an industry trend in its early stages, the report explores innovations that focus on triggering positive customer behaviors, especially at critical decision-making moments, such as when signing up for and using financial products, or when putting money aside to meet savings goals.

We define financial capability as the combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors a person needs to make sound financial decisions that support well-being. This definition reflects an emerging industry view that focuses attention on behavior. Financial capability focuses on behavior change as well as the customer’s end state: financial health and well-being. This school of thought contrasts with traditional financial education, which has generally been more focused on the transfer of knowledge, skills, and information.

The financial capability approach stems from the growing body of industry research which reveals an important gap between knowing and doing. When techniques informed by behavioral economics are integrated into client interventions, people are more likely to translate their knowledge into action. While traditional financial education methods still predominate, our research identified a host of exciting financial capability innovations. These interventions range from personal counseling, to mobile apps that help customers understand their finances at a glance, to soap operas that embed financial capability messages and lessons.

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> Posted by Hannah Sherman and Jeffrey Riecke, Project Associate and Communications Specialist, CFI

fi2020_antilogo1In terms of financial inclusion, Haiti has much to be excited about. That might come as a surprise as it is considered to have among the worst environments for financial inclusion efforts, at least according to the Global Microscope. In the 2015 Microscope rankings, Haiti was at the very bottom of the list. Though this 2015 score reflected great progress compared to 2014. In fact, Haiti’s score improved year-on-year more than nearly any other country. This was due in large part to the development of a national financial inclusion strategy. However, Haiti’s path forward, including the implementation of this national strategy, is less than straightforward.

Haiti is still very poor. More than three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and about two-thirds are unemployed. According to the Global Findex, in 2014 only 19 percent of Haitians aged 15 or above had access to a bank account, compared with 51 percent across all of Latin America and the Caribbean. Nine percent of the adult population had formal savings in 2014 (compared with 14 percent regionally), and 5 percent were formal borrowers (compared with 11 percent in the region). Small and medium-sized businesses and microenterprises make up the majority of the country’s jobs, and their access to finance is extremely limited.

But in recent years, Haiti has achieved impressive advances in its policy, regulation, and enabling infrastructure. About a year ago the Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH, the central bank) passed the national financial inclusion strategy, which was supported by the World Bank and other international organizations. Among the strategy’s priority areas are financial education and consumer protection. In July of last year, USAID and Haiti’s Office of Economic Growth and Agricultural Development announced plans to work towards expanding financial access in support of this strategy. Their effort focuses on harnessing partnerships across stakeholder types to pilot and develop interventions.

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> Posted by Allyse McGrath, Senior Associate, CFI

Readers of the 2015 Global Microscope, which spotlights the quality of the policy environment for financial inclusion, often focus on the countries at the top of the pack. However, some of the largest improvements in this year’s report are happening towards the bottom of the ranks. This trend appears on a regional scale, with the Middle East and North Africa, the region with the collective lowest scores, showing the most improved scores in this year’s issue of the Global Microscope. In this region, Egypt serves as an example of a country making huge strides even though it’s not among the top 10 countries. In fact, it scores among the very lowest handful of countries.

Up two spots from 53 to 51 out of 55 total markets this year, Egypt improved its score in 7 of the 12 Microscope indicators. The 8-point jump overall can be attributed to many factors, most notably the government’s introduction of a new regulation which broadens financial supervisory to a burgeoning microfinance sector and its welcoming of new electronic payments experiments.

In November 2014, the Egyptian Government enacted  Law no. 141, more commonly known as the “Microfinance Law”, which created provisions for regulating MFIs in the country, previously excluded from the legal framework. This law expanded the reach of the Egyptian Finance Supervisory Authority (EFSA) which now has control over issuing licenses to microfinance institutions in Egypt. After the law’s issuance in 2014, the number of MFIs in Egypt rose from 400 to 640. By the end of 2015, EFSA reported that it had issued 253 licenses. The law which is aimed at ensuring efficiency, transparency, and risk management also includes a list of “Executive Decrees” by which licensed institutions must abide.

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> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

The news is out. Ezubo is a Ponzi scheme. The lending company, a P2P platform in China, has bilked 900,000 private investors out of a stunning US$7.6 billion. Ezubo is China’s largest ever online scam—but it is not alone. It is one of 2,612 P2P sites that bring lenders and borrowers together in China’s $2.6 trillion wealth management industry. Of those, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) says that more than 1,000 are “problematic.” We expressed concerns about this very P2P lending market in China in our FI2020 Progress Report released four months ago.

But first, how could this happen with Ezubo? Ezubo had been in the vanguard of the hot e-finance market, and was named “online credit financial brand of the year” by China’s National Business Daily in 2015. It was lauded on Chinese state television and received implicit endorsement from high government officials. It engaged in cross-border trading with Myanmar—something that would not seem possible without government oversight. China is supposed to be in a big campaign to root out corruption. Yet it seems there are just two possibilities: Chinese regulators either knew about the scam and kept silent, or they missed it altogether. Could Ezubo have duped or paid off every one of the local, provincial, and national authorities who had oversight?

That’s why people who were suddenly stripped of their wealth not only feel duped by Ezubo, they also feel duped by the government. After all, this is only the latest allegation of fraud against a market that has been enthusiastically championed by the government and only loosely regulated.

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> Posted by Hannah Sherman, Project Associate, CFI

fi2020_antilogo1In recent years mobile technology has played an increasingly important role in improving financial inclusion. And though Africa gets all the press, right now in Latin America mobile money services are growing faster than in any other region in the world.

There are currently 37 mobile money services operating in the 19 countries in the region, with nearly 15 million registered mobile money accounts. People in Latin America use the services somewhat differently from those in East Africa – more than 25 percent of all mobile money transactions in Latin America were third-party transactions like bill payments and merchant payments, over four times more than in East Africa, where person-to-person transfers predominate.

Despite high mobile penetration throughout the region, it becomes quickly apparent when looking at the Latin American market that there is no single approach to building financial inclusion via mobile money that will be effective across all countries. Although mobile penetration is high throughout Latin America, Pyramid Research found that there are three separate and distinct categories of countries to consider: those with an underdeveloped financial system; those with an emerging financial system; and those with a developed financial system. Each category requires a different mobile financial inclusion strategy. Given their high proportion of under- and unbanked people, countries with an underdeveloped financial system, such as Bolivia, Honduras, and Paraguay stand to benefit the most.

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> Posted by Hannah Sherman, Project Associate, CFI

Despite all the talk about fintech start-ups transforming how financial services are offered to the base of the pyramid, recent efforts by the government of Pakistan remind us that change can also be led from the top.

“Accounts” includes mobile money accounts, while “accounts at a financial institution” is comprised of bank accounts. (click to enlarge)

Pakistan has extremely low levels of access to affordable, diverse financial services. In the Center for Financial Inclusion’s (CFI) report By the Numbers, which assesses progress toward financial inclusion by 2020, Pakistan was identified as one of the countries predicted to fall short of the goal of universal account access by 2020. In Pakistan, only 13 percent of adults have accounts, compared with about 46 percent of adults in all of South Asia. Microfinance reaches less than 3 percent of the country’s population, and less than 7 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) use formal finance for working capital or investments. (To explore available data on the state of financial inclusion in Pakistan, check out the FI2020 Inclusion Visualizer.)

(click to enlarge)

While financial inclusion in Pakistan remains low, recent trends suggest that the country is poised for rapid growth in the near future. Pakistan placed fifth in the Global Microscope 2015‘s list of enabling environments for financial inclusion, up six points from its 2014 score. This reflects an energetic, sustained effort by the government to strengthen the financial inclusion landscape of the nation.

Historically, there have been three major types of financial inclusion players in Pakistan: microfinance banks (MFBs), microfinance institutions (MFIs), and rural support programs (RSPs). While these three players continue to dominate the financial inclusion landscape in Pakistan, previously “benched” players have begun to play an increasingly important role.

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> Posted by Center Staff

2015 was a year full of great reads (and listens). As we enter 2016, we wanted to take a look back at last year and what we were most excited to explore.  Through our work writing the FI2020 Progress Report, which assesses global progress in five key areas of financial inclusion, we benefited from important research from many in the financial inclusion field.  As part of this effort, we were eager to update our FI2020 Resource Library with the most informative reports and research outputs.  We encourage you to check it out – and in the meantime to review the highlights listed below.  The organizations responsible for these reports cover a wide array of stakeholder types, from support organizations, to telecommunication companies, to financial service providers – proof that progress in financial inclusion is being driven by many.

What Happens to Microfinance Clients Who Default? (January)
The Smart Campaign
Author: Jami Solli
This report looks in-depth at the enabling environment, the practices of providers, and customer experiences in Peru, India, and Uganda, to understand what happens when microfinance clients default on their loans. We were especially interested in the paper’s findings that demonstrate that effective credit bureaus give financial service providers the confidence to treat customers who default more humanely.

Money Resolutions: A Sketchbook (January)
CGAP
Author: Ignacio Mas 
This working paper explores the underlying logic for how people make money resolutions, including how people organize their money and make decisions about financial goals and spending. The paper focuses on peoples’ approaches to making financial decisions – rather than evaluating the decisions themselves – identifying the inner conflicts they face in the process.

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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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