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> Posted by Center Staff

This edition of top picks features posts highlighting India’s financial inclusion progress and persisting gaps, how the deployment of digital financial systems requires strategic human capital management, and the state of the mobile money industry in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The proportion of adults in India with a bank account increased from 35 to 53 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to the recently-released Global Findex data. A new post on the IFMR LEAD blog shares the Findex findings for India, and outlines the ways in which financial inclusion in the country is still far from achieved. The post affirms that account ownership is just the first step towards inclusion, discussing account usage, gender disparity, and uptake of mobile services, among other topics.

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> Posted by Nate Gonzalez, Investment Officer, Accion Venture Lab

The following post was originally published on Next Billion.

In this age of “big data,” technology has begun to drive strategy formation, and this shift could have big implications for traditional businesses and social enterprises alike. In a thoughtful and engaging presentation (below), Philip Evans, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, explains why. Most traditional businesses, he says, operate in a value chain, where transaction costs are the “glue” that holds the chain together. Large corporations (such as banks) have been able to fend off competition by sufficiently reducing transaction costs through economies of scale. However, as the accessibility and flow of information has become cheaper and faster, the transaction costs traditionally associated with accessing the information needed to make key business decisions (e.g., extending a loan) have plummeted.

Plummeting transaction costs create space for new entrants to come in and completely disrupt traditional value chains and corporate structures. In his presentation, Evans lays out the case that lies at the foundation of the investment thesis behind Accion Venture Lab (where I am an investment officer): Start-ups with technology-enabled models can create scaled products and innovate much faster, smarter, and more cheaply than incumbent institutions.

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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

The following post was originally published on Next Billion.

The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum, in October 2013, was an opportunity for hundreds of leaders to come together and dedicate themselves to quality financial access for all, while at the same time proclaiming that global access is, in fact, within the realm of the possible. The Forum itself generated many action ideas, forged new relationships between actors and created a surge in momentum.

Since October, we at the Center for Financial Inclusion have been in a (very welcome) quiet phase, during which we are laying the groundwork for the next big push. Over the past few months we have been busy following up on some of the most fascinating insights that came out of the FI2020 process. I’d like to mention a few here – and describe how these insights can make a difference in the quest for global financial inclusion by 2020.

Aging and Financial Inclusion

One of the biggest “Aha!” insights for us came from our Mapping the Invisible Market work, which revealed the rapid growth of older population segments, especially among middle-income countries. In these countries, including much of Latin America and Asia, the over-65 age cohort will rise within a decade or two from about 5 percent of the population to about 15 percent, putting great stress on traditional systems for supporting later life.

We are sure that such changes will have big implications for financial inclusion, and so we decided to team up with HelpAge International, one of the premier global organizations dedicated to aging. When we contacted HelpAge, it had just released its “Global Age Watch Index, 2013,” a ranking of countries on the basis of quality of life for older people. HelpAge has done important analysis on income strategies actually used by people as they age, and it knows that these strategies are more diverse and creative than stereotypes might suggest. CFI and HelpAge will work together to dig deeper into the financial services needs related to aging and preparation for later life. We will also look at the financial barriers older clients face, whether these are physical limitations (related to acquired disabilities), policies (such as arbitrary age cut-offs), or susceptibility to fraud and abuse. We will focus this research in Latin America. We are convinced that the life-course lens on financial inclusion will reveal a wide range of opportunities to advance inclusion. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

This edition of Top Picks features three posts that each highlight an initiative with the potential to further inform financial inclusion efforts. These initiatives include an entrepreneurial assistance program for women in post-war Uganda, a project that explored the effectiveness of microfinance providers offering health services, and an interactive workshop on impact evaluation.

  • What’s the best way to help the poor in the aftermath of war? A new post on the Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) blog highlights the recent release of findings from a program that provided entrepreneurial assistance – business training, start-up money, ongoing support and monitoring – to women in northern Uganda. The assistance led to increases in business activity and decreases in poverty, but did not have an effect on non-economic areas, such as physical and mental health. The program was conducted by IPA, Italian NGO AVSI Uganda, and Chris Blattman of Columbia University.
  • In his latest post on The Evidence Project, Chris Dunford shares the results of Freedom from Hunger’s Microfinance and Health Protection (MAHP) initiative, which sought to test the feasibility and impact of offering microfinance clients health education, as well as access to health services and products. Five large-scale microfinance providers participated in the initiative, developing health protection packages for their clients. The results from the initiative support a case for the effectiveness of integrating microfinance and health services.
  • Re-Evaluating Impact Evaluation, a new Next Billion post from Hui Wen Chan of the Citi Foundation, revisits a recent impact evaluation workshop and shares some of the key discussion points from the event. Arguably the most salient of these being think beyond the financial, consider both the economic and non-economic impacts of your products or services. Another key point shared in the post is the integrity of data depends both on the questions asked and the manner in which they are asked. The workshop was provided by the William Davidson Institute (WDI) and hosted by the Citi Foundation in New York City.

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> Posted by Center Staff

Financial inclusion efforts often emerge in places you wouldn’t expect. For this edition of Top Picks, we spotlight a few of these unsuspecting areas – financial services to support farmer migration, early stage impact investing – and share research on one of  the inclusion community’s hottest topics: mobile money.

  • Subsistence farmers in regions with long off-seasons face an essential question: Do you stay put and stretch incomes to withstand unproductive periods, or do you migrate during off-seasons to find temporary labor? A new post on the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) Blog highlights recent research from the Centre for Economic Policy Research on the potential for financial services to help farmers overcome the risks associated with migrating and attain supplemented incomes. The researchers found that offering a conditional cash or credit incentive for farmers to migrate nearly doubled their likelihood of migration, and that a large portion of these migraters continued doing so after the incentive was removed. Many of the surveyed reported forming relationships with their temporary employers and returning to work for them in subsequent off-seasons.
  • The perception that there is a lack of investable opportunities is hampering the growth of the impact investing industry, according to Paul Breloff in a new Next Billion post. Managing Director of Accion Venture Lab, Breloff brings attention to recent reports from JP Morgan and Village Capital revealing this sentiment, and shares the investing approach of Venture Lab, which has yielded a strong pipeline of investable companies. Venture Lab’s three-prong strategy is invest earlier, tolerate more uncertainty, and concentrate on big-picture priorities over returns. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Top Picks is back from a long hiatus with posts on incorporating behavioral economics into financial service design, the potential for academic research in financial inclusion efforts, and the importance of quality data.

  • A new post on Next Billion from Jake Kendall of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers insight into how behavioral economics can be used to improve money management. The post shares work from Ignacio Mas and Colin Meyer on building optimum mobile user-interfaces, includes a study on the effectiveness of basic finance heuristics over formal accounting training, and explores the potential of algorithms that interpret clients’ unique behaviors to better guide them towards financial goals. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.