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Recommendations for how Colombia’s banks, fintechs, telcos, and government can better harness technology to boost inclusion

> Posted by Miriam Freeman

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In Colombia, where institutional factors favor technology as a tool for development, fintech has proven helpful in promoting financial inclusion, but only through a narrow definition of inclusion—more access. If we broaden our definition of financial inclusion, the country’s progress in leveraging fintech is less substantial. What can the business community and policymakers do to advance fintech for financial inclusion in Colombia?

First, let’s take a step back. In terms of financial inclusion broadly, how does Colombia measure up?

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Country-specific scores across regulations that enable, promote, and prevent financial inclusion

> Posted by Liliana Rojas-Suarez and Lucía Pacheco

The following post was originally published on the Center for Global Development’s blog and has been republished with permission.

The most recent World Bank data on financial inclusion shows that by 2014, only 54 percent of the adult population in Latin America had an account at a financial institution. This compares to an average of 62 percent of adults worldwide and 70.5 percent for those countries with a similar level of income per capita (the region’s peers). In developed economies, 94 percent of adults have an account at a financial institution.

Many factors could be cited for the low ratios of financial inclusion in Latin America, but in a recent paper published at BBVA Research, that also came as a CGD working paper, we focus on the potential role of financial regulation. We assessed and compared the quality of the policies and regulations that impinge on financial inclusion in eight Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay). Peru and Mexico came out on top, with what appear to be the best regulatory frameworks for promoting financial inclusion. But even in these top performers, there is room for improvement.

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> Posted by Rachel Morpeth, Analyst, CFI

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People make their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water following Hurricane Harvey.

The devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey colored headlines across the nation. Two weeks later, Houston, Texas remains partially submerged. The resulting financial damage will likely exceed that of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Louisiana coast in 2005. Harvey is taking Katrina’s title as the most catastrophic storm in America’s history. A Politico headline, however, poignantly suggests another message that perhaps we should all be taking away: “Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like.” Harvey is classified as a “500-year flood,” meaning a flood of this magnitude has a 1-in-500 probability of occurring in any given year. Yet this is Houston’s third 500-year flood in three years. Harvey’s successor, Hurricane Irma, has also caused death and devastation, while heavy flooding in South Asia has resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people across India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

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> Posted by Center Staff

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BBVA Bancomer in Mexico and Bancolombia in Colombia partner with Juntos, a fintech startup, to deepen their customer engagement and product usage. Why wouldn’t the two banks just strengthen their customer engagement capabilities in-house?

A few weeks ago, we released a joint report with the Institute of International Finance (IIF), How Financial Institutions and Fintechs Are Partnering for Inclusion: Lessons from the Frontlines. As part of the report, CFI and IIF interviewed over 30 individuals from across the industry, including representatives from Juntos, BBVA Bancomer, and Bancolombia. Here’s what their story taught us about the value of successful customer engagement partnerships.

Engaged customers are better customers. Because large portions of the populations in the emerging markets in Mexico and Colombia are outside the formal financial sector, bringing them into it requires financial education and well-designed products and services. Simply providing products and services is often ineffective, as people also need to understand how they work and develop confidence using them. Several financial institutions we interviewed echoed the importance of frequent interactions with new low-income customers to build stronger relationships and increase loyalty, trust, satisfaction, and retention. They hope this kind of engagement will improve public perception and understanding of financial products and services, and ultimately increase the demand for such offerings.

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> Posted by Pablo Antón Díaz, Research Manager, CFI

Leonardo Tibaquira Morales, Product Manager at Accion, leads a training for workshop participants who work with pensions

Traditional financial education programs have, at best, a minimal impact on the financial capability of recipients. At least that’s what the research tells us. Still, the vast majority of time and energy contributed towards improving financial capability around the world is channeled through traditional methods. I had the opportunity to take a closer look – and contribute to – one country that is energetically trying to improve financial capability: Colombia.

The Colombian government recognizes that the average level of financial literacy and financial capability in the country is low, especially among rural and low income communities (as a joint-study by CAF and others across several South American countries demonstrates) and that the programs implemented thus far have been insufficient to address the issue. But, the country is poised for change.

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> Posted by Virginia Moore, Communications Director, CFI

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For the last 10 years, the Global Microscope on Financial Inclusion has systematically reported what it takes to create an enabling environment for financial inclusion. The good news is that the global financial inclusion community increasingly understands what works and is designing essential reforms. But the rate of progress is gradual and uneven, and in some areas, still lacking. The latest Global Microscope takes a closer look at what it takes to create an inclusive financial sector—and where intensive effort is most needed.

The Leaderboard

Tying for first place in the global rankings are Peru and Colombia, scoring 89 (out of 100). Second place is also a tie, with two Asian countries, India and the Philippines, each scoring 78. Pakistan earns third place with a score of 63. The spreads between first, second and third place are wider than they are between any other consecutive rungs in the index, but the top-ranking countries are in fact the same as last year. Peru, Colombia, the Philippines, India and Pakistan are longtime financial inclusion institutional and regulatory leaders.

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> Posted by Camyla Fonseca, Knowledge Management Analyst, International Labour Organization

Remember when you were a kid, and your father lectured you about the value of money when you asked him to buy you the new videogame your friend just got for his birthday? You certainly don’t remember how much the videogame actually cost, but you can probably still hear your father’s voice saying money is hard to earn and shouldn’t be spent without caution. Your father may not know, but he used a teachable moment to transfer you some of his knowledge. These are instances when we are more likely to remember something because it was taught when we needed to use that information and hence were most likely to be engaged. A good teacher can leverage or perhaps even create teachable moments by adapting the lesson to the situation.

In the area of personal finance, teachable moments usually occur when someone is taking a financial decision or using a financial service. As a recent report published by the Center for Financial Inclusion notes, individuals are more likely to change their financial behavior or recall information if it is conveyed during these teachable moments. This insight has clear implications on the way financial education interventions are designed. Interactions that happen along precise moments in a financial service provider’s value chain may be more effective than traditional stand-alone classroom interventions. And, financial service providers, due to their repeated interactions with clients at crucial teachable moments, are in a unique position to contribute to financial capability efforts. Every customer touch point is a teachable moment.

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> Posted by Guy Stuart, Ph.D., Executive Director, Microfinance Opportunities

Can government-to-person (G2P) payments to low-income beneficiaries translate into their formal financial inclusion? This might happen if those beneficiaries can gain experience in dealing with a formal financial service provider (FSP) when they pick up their payments. This is especially the case where the government pays the beneficiaries of the program through a digital channel, such as a debit card or mobile money, and the payment pick-up process gives beneficiaries the chance to interact directly with this new technology. Furthermore, given that G2P programs are often targeted at women, there is the potential for these programs to increase the inclusion of the half of the population traditionally more excluded from formal financial services.

As part of the CFI Fellows Program, Microfinance Opportunities, in partnership with the Pakistan Microfinance Network and Centro de Formación Empresarial de la Fundación de Mario Santo Domingo, looked at the relationship between G2P payments and financial inclusion. For this project we analyzed global survey data and conducted field research in Colombia and Pakistan—two countries with large, well-established G2P programs.

The focus group discussions with the beneficiaries of the Familias program in Colombia showed the potential of G2P programs to have a direct effect on enabling women to become comfortable with using digital channels to receive money. The women unanimously reported that they used their Familias debit cards to withdraw their G2P payment from an ATM without any help from anyone else. They did report that, at first, they needed help, but soon learned how to use the cards themselves without any problem.
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> Posted by Hannah Sherman, Project Associate, CFI

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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

Remember the first time you tried to cook? Chances are you were nervous or at least apprehensive about how the food would turn out. If friends or family were in attendance, or, worse, were to eat what you were preparing, you were probably even less confident. Remember the second time you cooked? Or the third? Probably not. The more you actually got into the kitchen, the more your skills sharpened, and the more routine it became.

Using formal financial services for the first time, like cooking, can be intimidating – especially for people not used to interacting with formal institutions. Banks are big and complicated. A person of moderate means might feel that the bank will treat her as a low priority customer. And the notion of entrusting one’s livelihood to an unfamiliar entity is scary.

As part of CFI’s new financial capability project, we scanned the globe for the top innovations to help clients build their capability and make sound financial decisions. One of the behaviorally-informed practices we identified among these innovations as having great promise to affect changes in behavior is learning by doing, a strategy closely connected to effective, practical learning. Think of how much quicker your capability grew by actually cooking, than by reading a cook book.

Learning by doing, whether through technology-enabled simulations, or in real life with the supervision of front-line staff, enables customers to overcome the initial barriers to use that come with unfamiliarity and lack of confidence. Learning by doing offers customers the space to learn and get comfortable with financial products. This can be especially valuable for customer activation.

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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.