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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

Internet privacy rules have just been overturned in the U.S. by Congress and the Administration, and at the same time, struggles over banking privacy are taking place. There are striking similarities as well as crucial differences. As a consumer protection advocate, I am struck by how the narrative about these kinds of conflicts primarily centers on where competitive advantage lies, and which company or industry is made the winner or loser, rather than about the rights of consumers.

The internet case pits telecoms and cable companies, like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, against internet companies, like Google and Facebook. The Obama-era rules that were just overturned required broadband providers to ask customer permission before tracking, sharing and/or selling their data. These companies complain that the rules disadvantage them relative to internet-based companies, which can collect data without such rules.

The banking case, as reported in The New York Times, pits major banks against fintechs and data aggregators. The question is whether banks will transfer consumer data – at the consumer’s request – to companies that provide personal financial management tools, like Mint, Betterment, and Digit (or to data aggregators that facilitate the transfer – like Plaid and Yodlee). Without this data the financial management apps cannot build the complete portrait of a person’s financial life they need to provide analysis and advice. But banks are reluctant, even after specific consumer requests. You might think this reluctance is to protect their customers or because of data privacy rules for banking, but actually, according to The Times, it’s because the customer data reveals details about banks’ own business models – like pricing and products. The banks fear, probably correctly, that the personal financial management companies will use the information to undercut bank products with their own offerings.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Specialist, CFI

Recently news broke that Google is developing an ambitious online platform that aligns with India’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) financial inclusion scheme, and will support users in building their financial literacy and accessing appropriate financial services. If the platform does indeed come to fruition, and functions as intended, it could mean huge benefits for the country. It is reported that the PMJDY program has succeeded in enabling every household in the country in having a formal bank account, and as of the end of 2015, according to the Finance Ministry, 60 percent of the accounts opened under the program have been used and have a balance. However, concerns over account dormancy and lack of account usage in the country persist, as do concerns over financial capability. A platform that empowers Indians to best use PMJDY financial services, harnessing the horsepower of Google, could be a game-changer.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Specialist, CFI

Access to credit is essential. But when lenders operate through a business model that overwhelmingly turns small loans (think $500) into insurmountable cycles of debt, they are not providing an essential service and are instead profiteering. Such is the case with the payday loan and related short-term credit markets in the United States. Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled new proposed rules designed to improve the practices of these lenders that draw customers into cycles of debt. The aim of the rules isn’t to kill essential access to credit, but to rein-in the payday loan industry’s reliance on having a high percentage of borrowers who are unable to repay their loans and are drawn-in to repeat borrowing at higher rates and with additional fees.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Specialist, CFI

You could say it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. In certain industries, for talented individuals, as sure as their rise to fame is their fall to bankruptcy, or at least, to mountains of debt. Ever since the meteoric rise of certain cash-bloated industries, like sports, music, and film, to name a few, we’ve seen star after star go from being set-for-life to being, astonishingly, in dire financial straits.

The latest to be added to this list? Kayne West. The divisive hip-hop titan and cultural icon recently revealed that he is more than $50 million in personal debt*. The announcement came a few weeks ago at the tail end of the media circus surrounding his most recent album release. Along with the album, he launched a new fashion line – both to generally positive reviews. Arguably at the height of his talents in both pursuits, one wouldn’t suspect Mr. West of being in the red. In fact, in multiple songs on his new album his lyrics suggest otherwise: “10 thousand dollar fur for Nori, I just copped it, yo!” (Nori is his two-year-old daughter, who does indeed dress very well.) Kanye’s financial problems are so great that he took to Twitter to publicly ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google Co-Founder Larry Page for money so that he could continue to make his art. It remains to be seen if the tech billionaires will bankroll the self-proclaimed “most important living artist”.

Along with Kanye, famous musicians who have gone bankrupt over the years include Marvin Gaye, David Crosby, Vanilla Ice, Jerry Lee Lewis, MC Hammer, and George Clinton. We could go on. Big names, which alludes to a big (and potentially growing) problem.

In the world of professional sports, financial stress is extremely well-documented. By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of National Football League (American football) players have either gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. Within five years of retirement, roughly 60 percent of former National Basketball Association players are broke.

How does this happen? And should we care?

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> Posted by Joshua Goldstein aka Mr. Provocative

Today, in 2070, with advanced robotization of jobs in all sectors, “work” has become a minority pursuit and financial inclusion is mostly understood to mean government cash transfers. Other financial products like loans are anachronisms of a bygone era. The government knows that such transfer programs like “unemployment benefits” are the only way to keep the anemic engine of demand alive for the goods and services that are now produced by a smaller and smaller sliver of the population who live in Byzantine splendor far removed from the humdrum circumstances of the vast majority. (Indeed in 2070, “unemployment” is a forgotten term from an era when “work” was a defining feature of life.) And the lack of work extends to what is today called “knowledge economy” occupations as well as almost every other category of white and blue collar work. Now, all humans enjoy a pension plan that goes into effect at birth and is more than enough to meet basic consumption needs. The benefit ends only with death by lethal injection at the mandatory termination age of 120.

Am I painting a scenario that seems wildly implausible? Perhaps.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

A few days ago news broke that Facebook, the social media giant with over a billion users worldwide, is making preparations to begin offering international money transfer services. Although the development has been dismissed by Facebook as rumor, the prospect of this enormous network enabled for money transfer and the huge global need for this service makes this a story worth following.

The news, initially shared by the Financial Times and sourced from individuals involved in the proceedings, indicates that Facebook is weeks away from securing regulatory approval from Ireland’s central bank to allow its users to store money on the site and use it to pay others. Facebook’s headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Asia is in Dublin. If approved, Facebook would be permitted to issue units of stored monetary value represented as “claims” against the company. Regulation in this area pertaining to Europe would allow approval in Ireland to green light services throughout the entire continent. The Financial Times also mentions that Facebook has had discussions about potential partnerships with several start-ups that offer international money transfer services through both smartphone and online platforms.

Facebook’s reach is massive, 1.23 billion at the end of last year, and it’s becoming increasingly diverse. Last week, thanks to increases in internet access and mobile penetration, the company achieved a milestone in India: 100 million users. Some analysts say by the end of this year India will surpass the United States (with 180 million) as the country with the most Facebook users. The social media site is big elsewhere in Asia, too. It is the most popular social network service in all but six of the region’s countries. After the US and India, Facebook’s largest countries by-users include Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines. Facebook has a large presence in Africa, as well, with 13 million users in Egypt, 9.4 million in South Africa, 5.3 million in Nigeria, 1.8 million in Kenya, and 1.4 million in Ghana.

Like Facebook, remittances volumes are increasing on the whole around the world. In a new brief on remittances and migration released last week by the World Bank, it’s shown that remittances to developing countries reached about $404 billion in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012. Annual growth is expected to increase to an annual average of 8.4 percent over the next three years. In 2013, India received the most international remittances with $70 billion, followed by China with $60 billion, and the Philippines with $25 billion.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

There’s a lot of data out there. And some of us are brave enough to use it (including you, my friend).

Recently we released an interactive Data Explorer tool and individual Country Profiles, allowing users to visually explore financial inclusion data in comparison with other development indicators in one central location. You can see our analysis of some of the data, but more importantly, we would like to invite you to explore the data for yourself.

For those interested in financial inclusion figures in specific countries, regions, or income groups of interest, visit Country Profiles. There we display data from the Global Findex along with demographic data relevant to understanding financial inclusion across the lifecycle. As we continue our own analysis of global trends, we will add figures on income, urbanization, technology, and more for each country.

Click on the financial inclusion bars to see a breakdown of the data by client segment, and use the tool to understand why or how people use financial services in particular countries. At the bottom of the page, you can interact with the demographic data by scrolling through the years to see past and projected population trends from 1950 to 2100. (This is very cool.)

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Posted by Ignacio Mas, Independent Consultant

Google Trends is a public web facility which shows how often particular search terms are entered in Google relative to the total search volume, globally or for individual countries, and for defined time periods (after 2004). This gives us a good perspective into how people are approaching our industry. I looked up some of the most prominent financial inclusion terms, and found some very interesting things.

Industry rebranding. The first graph below shows that the search term “microfinance” has been much more popular than “microcredit” over the last eight years. (In each graph, all data points are scaled relative to the highest value on that graph – see methodological note at the end of this post.) “Microcredit” surged in late 2006 with the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus. Since then, searches on “microcredit” have been decreasing in relative terms and, by contrast, the new term “financial inclusion” has been gaining ground and is now comparable in its use as a search term to “microcredit.” Still, despite strong attempts from many quarters to rebrand around the financial inclusion label, it has not yet taken off.

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> Posted by Sergio Guzmán

idea_icon13

Google just launched an initiative called Project 10^100. Out of 154,000 user submitted ideas to make the world a better place, Google narrowed down the list to 16 major ideas and you can vote for one of them!

I would like to call your attention to one idea in general, it is to “Build better banking tools for everyone” Read the rest of this entry »

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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.