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“Progress happens, just not according to our wishful time frames.” Greta Bull responds to CFI’s paper about the latest Findex data.

This post was originally published on the CGAP Blog and is re-published here with permission.

> By Greta Bull, CEO of CGAP and a Director at the World Bank Group

We can choose to see a glass as half empty or half full. And our perspective often has a lot to do with our initial assumptions.

Beth Rhyne and Sonja Kelly of the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) have generated discussion in the financial inclusion community with their paper exploring the latest Findex data, titled “Financial Inclusion Hype Versus Reality.” In the paper, Rhyne and Kelly express concern that the rate of access to new accounts slowed between 2014 and 2017 and that the usage gap for those accounts appears to be growing. They also highlight stagnation in the growth of credit and a decline in savings, but an increase in the use of payments. While I have very little to disagree with in their paper, I think the financial inclusion community has a lot more cause for optimism than it makes out.

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What if we opened millions of bank accounts but nobody used them? That is one of several conundrums raised by the recently released Global Findex data for 2017.

> By Elisabeth Rhyne and Sonja Kelly, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion
This post originally appeared on Next Billion’s blog and is reposted here with permission.

geographic distribution of 3 billion people without active accounts, 2017
About 3 billion people in the world either have no account or have an account that sits unused. The countries with the largest number of financially excluded people are also the highest population countries: India and China. This picture has changed little in the past three years.

The Global Financial Inclusion Database (Findex) is a survey of the financial habits of adults in 144 countries with data from 2011, 2014 and now (2017). Governments, foundations, big financial companies and fintechs alike rely on the Findex to understand how people are using (or not using) financial services. It is the best available yardstick through which we measure global progress toward financial inclusion.
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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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We are excited to announce the fourth annual Financial Inclusion Week, taking place from October 29 – November 2, 2018. Over the past three years over 80 partner organizations have engaged people all over the world to discuss the most pressing actions needed to advance financial inclusion globally. In 2018, we aim to continue the conversations from last year and engage an even wider community of stakeholders to discuss this year’s theme of Getting Inclusion Right.

In 2018, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is celebrating its 10th anniversary and using this moment as an opportunity to celebrate progress, but mostly to look to the future. CFI invites the Financial Inclusion Week 2018 community to join us in this journey and reflect on the question, “What do we need to get right?” What do we need to get right to ensure that gains in financial services access lead to true improvements in the lives of the underserved? What are the great upcoming risks that we need to address now to ensure that customers are adequately protected?

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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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> Posted by Center Staff

After great anticipation, three years’ worth to be exact, the 2017 Global Findex Database was officially released this morning. The Global Findex is the authoritative data source on global progress toward financial inclusion. Released every three years, the Global Findex surveys more than 150,000 adults in 144 economies to better understand how people access and use financial services to make payments, and also to save and borrow.

Since the 2014 Findex, the percent of the global population that has a bank account with a financial institution or mobile money service rose from 62 percent to 69 percent. Five-hundred and fifteen million individuals opened an account for the first time over the past three years, reducing the unbanked population to 1.7 billion adults worldwide. However, the new data also reveal critical shortcomings in progress. For instance, the financial inclusion gender gap didn’t improve. Globally, women remain 7 percent less likely to own a bank account than men.

Here are a few of the 2017 Global Findex’s high-level statistics:
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> Posted by Sonja Kelly and Elisabeth Rhyne, Director of Research and Managing Director, CFI

The World Bank is just days from releasing the next version of its Global Financial Inclusion Index (Findex), the authoritative data source on global progress toward financial inclusion. The dataset, which tracks financial inclusion in 150 countries, is released once every three years, and we have been waiting eagerly to see how things have changed since 2014. We are confident that the numbers will show enormous progress on the World Bank’s goal of universal access to financial accounts. But we wonder whether the news will also indicate that people are actually using those accounts and whether financial services are helping them achieve financial health, gain resilience and pursue opportunity – the ultimate goals of financial inclusion.

After we high-five the World Bank team for a job well-done, here are a few things that we will be looking for when we examine the new Findex numbers:

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Key fintech trends include publishing open APIs, which helps to expand customer bases and improve services offerings 

> Posted by Geraldine O’Keeffe, Chief Innovation Officer, Software Group

The following post is part of a blog series spotlighting perspectives and experiences from the Africa Board Fellowship.

Access to financial services in Africa is on the increase, up 10 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the Global Findex. This change can largely be credited to digital financial services. New entrants to the financial sector such as telcos, fintechs, and in the near future bigtechs like Facebook and Google are all offering technology-centered financial services that are changing the landscape and posing a competitive threat to traditional financial services providers (FSPs). At the same time, new technologies can allow traditional FSPs to expand their outreach and radically improve operational efficiency.

Considering both challenges and opportunities, now, more than ever, financial institutions of all stripes have to accept that technology and innovation are integral to their business strategy. These changes require a shift in culture throughout the institution and among the leadership. Board members, for example, have to embrace this change, understanding the current industry trends, experiencing these financial innovations firsthand, and taking concrete actions.

Through our work with board members of financial service providers in the Africa Board Fellowship program, we have identified three key fintech trends especially relevant for institutions in Africa focused on financial inclusion.

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> Posted by Kimberly Lei Pang, Digital Learning Specialist, UNICEF

In the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, the magical word “sesame” was used to open the seal of a cave where Ali Baba found hidden treasure. In China today, the same word is connected to another kind of magic, one that reveals hidden identities of the socially and economically disadvantaged. Sesame Credit (“芝麻信用” in Mandarin) is a product launched by Alibaba that pulls from transaction records on e-commerce platforms to understand a person or company’s creditworthiness. Such innovation in credit scoring is part of the “social credit system” that the Chinese government is building to make up for the longstanding shortage of credit data.

Access to credit, a major indicator of financial inclusion, has gained increasing attention from Chinese policymakers in recent years. For a country experiencing an economic slowdown and widening income gap between the rich and the poor, credit accessibility has the potential to spur growth and level the playing field for the poor. However, despite China’s efforts to improve financial access, a large portion of its population neither uses nor has access to credit. Data from the World Bank’s Global Findex study showed that Chinese people (aged 15+) have relatively high levels of formal bank account ownership (79 percent, 2014) but low levels of credit usage (14 percent, 2014). In fact, China’s formal credit use is the lowest among the five BRICS economies. Aside from the rigidity and costliness of financial institutions, a significant barrier to borrowing is the lack of reliable credit scoring in China. Established just 11 years ago, China’s credit bureau CCRC covers credit profiles for only a quarter of China’s 1.4 billion population and shares that information only with selected banks. Lenders thus often have no access to borrowers’ financial histories and tend to make rather arbitrary decisions on borrowers’ creditworthiness. As a result, many individuals and microenterprises find it difficult to get a loan, as steady employment and collateral assets are commonly required for formal credit.

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> Posted by Robin Brazier, Communications and Operations Associate, the Smart Campaign

Embed from Getty Images

Every year on March 8th we honor women around the world by celebrating International Women’s Day. This international holiday not only recognizes women’s valuable achievements and contributions to society, it recognizes the work that still needs to be done to create a more inclusive, gender equal world.

This day resonates especially strongly this year, with the International Women’s Strike also taking place today. For the worldwide strike, women are encouraged to not participate in paid or unpaid work and to avoid spending money – with the aim of demonstrating women’s integral professional and economic role in society. Over 50 countries around the world are participating in the strike, from Canada to Cambodia.

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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.