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From pay-as-you-go models to products that do away with exclusions, the rules of inclusive insurance are changing 

This post is adapted from the recently-released publication “Inclusive Insurance: Closing the Protection Gap for Emerging Customers,” a joint-report from the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and the Institute of International Finance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation.

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With digital channels and effective aggregators, it becomes possible to offer insurance to lower-income segments. But the products themselves must also be designed with both cost control and the needs of the client segment in mind. After all, the financial margins for inclusive insurance are smaller, and the value proposition of insurance is typically tough to sell to customers.

Drawing on insights from our recently-released report Inclusive Insurance: Closing the Protection Gap for Emerging Customers, here are a few of the key approaches for building inclusive insurance products that work for the insurer and the customer.

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> Posted by Danielle Piskadlo, Manager, Investing in Inclusive Finance, CFI

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It is expensive to be poor. Case in point, if you don’t have access to a bank account and need to send money to a friend or family in a different location, often your only choice is an expensive cash wiring service. Last year the World Bank found that the average cost of remittance services worldwide was 9 percent.

Well, these rates could be changing quicker than anticipated. On the heels of rumors that Facebook is preparing to offer money transfer services, it was officially announced that Walmart will be offering cash transfers for customers between stores, and doing so at their famous Walmart prices.

Say what you will about Walmart, it is hard to dispute that they know how to lower prices. At least initially, they will provide cash transfer services at significantly cheaper rates than most money transfer service providers. For instance, to send $900 between Walmart stores would only cost customers $9.50, a Walmart press release indicates. Transferring the same amount via Western Union would cost at least $52, according to their online price estimator, calibrated for my sending city of Boston.

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> Posted by Elizabeth Davidson, Financial Inclusion 2020 Consultant

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

Does Walmart pose a threat to banks? Some bankers are apparently worried the retailer indeed does. As Bloomberg recently uncovered, a group of bankers that advises the Federal Reserve asked U.S. regulators to keep Walmart out of the financial services business, or at least strictly limit and regulate their financial services-related products, including its established prepaid card business. Offered in partnership with American Express, the prepaid cards, known as Bluebird, are even marketed as a “checking and debit alternative.” The bankers’ group, called the Federal Advisory Council, thinks they are not just an alternative to traditional financial services, but a bona fide financial service in a “shadow banking” system that enjoys less regulation than traditional commercial banks.

So, is Walmart a real threat to the traditional sector? Maybe, but it and other big retailers could have the potential to reach those excluded from or underserved by traditional commercial financial services.

Consider the example of Banco Azteca in Mexico.

Banco Azteca, which CFI’s Elisabeth Rhyne called a “mega-success story” in terms of its reach and to whom the Inter-American Development Bank recently awarded its “equalBanking” prize for support of diversity and gender equality through financial services to the base of the pyramid, has a much different beginning than most banks: it grew out of one of Mexico’s largest consumer goods retailers, Grupo Elektra. After almost 50 years of experience offering consumer financing to its working class customers, the retail chain opened Banco Azteca branches—notably, after receiving a banking license—in all of its existing stores, establishing Mexico’s second largest network of bank branches almost overnight.

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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.