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Our research agenda is out! How would you tackle these big, unanswered questions in financial inclusion?

> Posted by Tess Johnson, Research Associate, CFI

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We are thrilled to announce that we are now accepting proposals for the 2018 cohort of CFI Fellows.

Building upon the impact of the CFI Fellows Program over the past three years, we’re looking for proposals from researchers and practitioners with demonstrated experience executing high-quality research projects from start to finish. Successful proposals will articulate a thoughtful and feasible response to one of the questions in our research agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 Isabelle Barrès, Global Director, the Smart Campaign

This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the impact of Smart Certification on the financial inclusion industry.

The Smart Campaign is thrilled to announce that 100 financial service providers have been Smart Certified, extending fair treatment and respect to more than 42 million low-income financial clients around the world. One hundred Smart Certifications marks a major milestone for the advancement of pro-client practices in the financial inclusion industry. These 100 financial service providers have worked to achieve and demonstrate their commitment to protecting clients from harm and delivering responsible financial services.

The journey to 100 certifications began with the launch of the Smart Campaign in 2008, at a time when microfinance sector leaders recognized the need to ensure that consumers remained front and center to their operations as the sector underwent a period of rapid growth. The Smart Campaign went on to become an umbrella for financial inclusion sector cooperation, through the endorsement of thousands of stakeholders of the Client Protection Principles (CPPs) and accompanying standards. The CPPs offer a common framework for understanding client risks and improving practices, and form the bedrock of the Campaign’s Smart Certification program. The certification program was launched in 2013 as a tool to support and reward financial service providers that offer appropriate products and services and deliver them in a fair and respectful way.

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> Posted by Tess Johnson, Research Associate, CFI

Embed from Getty Images

Building upon its e-commerce features for businesses, Instagram recently took another step into the digital finance space by rolling out a native (or in-app) payments feature to some of its users. After registering a debit or credit card and creating a security PIN number, users can make payments to a limited number of vendors directly within the Instagram app without being redirected to an external website. Beyond making your impulse buys a much more seamless experience, this native payments functionality can help online retailers and others sell and market their products directly to consumers without needing to build their own website or manage a physical retail location.

Given the intense scrutiny of Facebook’s data protection and privacy policies in recent weeks, it remains to be seen whether large numbers of users and businesses will actually entrust their financial data to Instagram, as, after all, Instagram is owned by Facebook. Instagram’s new payments feature is backed by Facebook’s Terms of Service for payments. However, with the volume of traffic that the platform generates for businesses and the ever-increasing smartphone ownership worldwide, adding this functionality is perhaps an opportunity that’s too good for Instagram to miss. It’s reported that 60 percent of Instagram users learn about new products through the platform, and over 200 million people visit at least one business profile on Instagram daily.

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On a daily basis, consumers fall victim to issues like lack of grievance redressal, misleading ads, and outright frauds and scams

> Posted by Sola Salako Ajulo, President and Founder, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON)

Embed from Getty Images

In fewer than twenty years, our concept of a market has evolved from a strictly physical location of commercial activity, to also include intangible, real-time e-locations. Research shows that up to 12 percent of all global commercial transactions now take place on the Internet – within and between countries, often across multiple currencies, and with little or no physical contact between seller and consumer.

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A look at why #FinHealthMatters in the region

> Posted by Allyse McGrath and Jeffrey Riecke, CFI

This year on Financial Health Matters Day, we at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion are taking a look at the new Global Findex data and what it says about the financial health of respondents around the world. Because of our recent work on financial health in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, we decided to take a closer look at the Findex numbers from the region.

The 2017 Global Findex shows a substantial increase in account ownership between 2014 and 2017, from 62 percent to 69 percent of adults. However, one indicator that has decreased across this same period is the Findex’s proxy for financial health – the resilience question. This metric measures a person’s ability to come up with emergency funds in the amount of 1/20 GNI per capita in the next month (for reference, this is a little less than $3,000 in the U.S. context, and a little less than 700 dinar in Serbia). Isolating Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the percentage of people who said they could come up with this amount actually decreased slightly from 64 percent in 2014 to 61 percent in 2017.

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Why we’re investing in Pula to support agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

> Posted by Rob Stevens and Amee Parbhoo, Accion Venture Lab

The following post was originally published on the Accion blog

Smallholder farmers are the bedrock of sub-Saharan Africa’s and Asia’s agricultural markets, providing over 80 percent of the food supply, but they are growing increasingly vulnerable. Climate scientists estimate that over the next few decades, droughts will frequently affect Africa and Asia as a result of climate change. As weather conditions cause decreased stability for family farms, there is an increased need for risk mitigation solutions that can add security to the lives of those most affected.

Pula, one of Accion Venture Lab’s latest investments, provides insurance to smallholder farmers across Africa and India, enabling income security for a population whose livelihoods depend on climate patterns. Pula uses cutting-edge technology coupled with expansive distribution partners to make large-scale agricultural insurance feasible for rural farmers.

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Which topics would you most want to see researched?

> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Director of Research, CFI

Hi there. I would love your help as we select topics for our 2018 CFI Fellows research.

CFI is getting ready to launch the request for proposals for our 2018 Fellows cohort (a lot of you have been asking when it’s coming out, and the answer is SOON!). The CFI Fellows Program is designed to respond to questions we think are critical to the future of financial inclusion. Fellows come from many perspectives, including both relatively junior and senior well-known researchers, and including researchers who have been in the financial inclusion community for a long time and some who are perceptive outsiders. We share a set of topics for study, and ask interested researchers to submit research proposals that address the topic of their interest.

Our semi-final list of questions is long, and we ask for your help refining or prioritizing them – or adding new ones. We’ve enabled comments at the bottom of this post for your feedback. Alternatively, feel free to email me at skelly@accion.org.

Here are the questions we are currently considering:
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How new product solutions, business models, and partnerships can advance electronic payments and financial inclusion

> Posted by Dan Salazar, Vice President, Product Development and Innovation, Acceptance and Solutions, Mastercard

Ten years ago, 85 percent of the world’s transactions were in cash and checks, and 2.5 billion people were unbanked. Since then, we’ve all been working hard as an industry to develop technology that will give the unbanked access to the world of digital payments. Mastercard has connected more than 360 million people to formal financial services – more than half-way to our commitment of reaching 500 million people by 2020. And the company has set a goal of connecting 40 million micro and small merchants to our payments network by 2021.

While more and more people and businesses are becoming “financially included,” there are still 2 billion people today who don’t have bank accounts, and over the last 10 years we’ve only managed to reduce cash usage by 2 percent. Up to now, we’ve been operating on the assumption that if we displace cash and simultaneously provide access to electronic payments, the unbanked will come. But, at this rate, financial inclusion for those remaining 2 billion people will take 200 years.

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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.