Will cash and checks still exist 15 or 20 years from now given the increasing digitization of money? Is the smartphone our new bank? Will many people working in the financial sector industry lose their jobs due to growing use of technology, robots, algorithms, and online banking? Is financial technology (FinTech) the solution to providing financial services to the 2 billion people in the planet that still lack access to finance? Will digital currencies and other innovative FinTech products pose systemic risks in the future? What is the best approach to regulate FinTech companies?
In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.
While most adults in developed countries have an account at a bank or another formal financial institution, this is not the reality in many developing countries, including Senegal. A recent World Bank Group (WBG) Financial Capability Survey revealed that less than one in five Senegalese adults (17%) report owning an account at a formal institution, which includes banks, microfinance institutions, or e-money agents. While Senegal’s financial inclusion levels are similar to those in other lower-middle income economies, the country lags behind the average inclusion rate among Sub-Saharan African economies.
Government leaders and advocates came together during the Annual Meetings to discuss a major development goal – ensuring everyone has access to affordable financial services such as a bank or mobile money account. While a lot of progress has been made on “financial inclusion,” new rules affecting the flow of funds threatens to slow or even reverse some gains.
Financial Inclusion not Exclusion: Managing De-Risking brought together Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Minister of Finance. Arun Jaitley, India’s Minister of Finance, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Juan Manuel Vega-Serrano, the president of the Financial Action Tax Force (FATF), which sets international standards for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats.
Some 700 million people were brought into the formal financial system between 2011 and 2014 – a major success – but 2 billion people remain cut off, said Queen Máxima, who is the United Nations Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development.
A new challenge to financial inclusion is a trend toward “de-risking” by banks. Many larger banks are increasingly terminating or restricting business relationships with remittance companies and smaller local banks in certain regions of the world. De-risking has therefore made money transfers more difficult for migrant workers and humanitarian organizations working in war-torn places.
Both financial inclusion and financial stability are high on international policy makers’ agenda. For instance, the G-20 has called for global commitments to both advancing financial inclusion (the Maya Declaration and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion) and enhancing financial stability (the Financial Stability Board, Basel III Implementation, and other regulatory reforms). One challenge is that there can be important policy trade-offs between the two objectives.
A rapid increase in financial inclusion in credit, for example, can impair financial stability, because not everyone is creditworthy or can handle credit responsibly—as illustrated in the last decade by the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States and the Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis in India. In addition, trade-offs between inclusion and stability could arise as an unintended consequence of bad or badly implemented polices.
Efficient, accessible and safe retail payment systems and services are necessary to extend access to transaction accounts to the 2 billion people worldwide who are still unserved by regulated financial service providers.
Having interoperable payment services addresses several important challenges regarding financial access and broader financial inclusion. This is because via a single transaction account.
Establishing payments interoperability is a formidable task. Our experience shows it is important to find the right balance between cooperation and competition when reforming retail payment systems. Despite the advantages that interoperability brings, not all market participants will necessarily embrace interoperability initiatives, e.g. if they fear to lose their dominant position and/or competitive advantage. In an earlier Blog the role authorities to facilitate interoperability has been discussed. Central banks are a key driving force in any payment system reform, but they cannot – and should not – act alone. Other regulators – such as financial and telecom regulators – are also important to achieving interoperability.
Scan the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You’ll see inclusive growth, clean water and greater equality, among other objectives. But you won’t see this: Giving people access to savings accounts, loans, insurance and other financial services.