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Financial Sector

Mind, Society, and Behavior – and Financial Inclusion

Douglas Randall's picture

Like many World Bankers, I took some time recently to look through the newly released 2015 World Development Report “Mind, Society, and Behavior.” From my perspective, in the Finance and Markets Global Practice, one thing jumped out immediately: The report is packed with insights that are directly relevant to our work on financial inclusion.

In the Overview alone, the reader is met with an abundance of findings related to consumer protection, financial capability, savings and other key topics involving financial inclusion (grouped together under the theme of “household finance,” which is fully explored in Chapter 6). We’re told of how changes to the framing of payday-loan terms dramatically altered borrowing behavior in the Unitedc States; how embedding financial messages in an engaging television soap opera in South Africa improved the financial choices of viewers; and how SMS reminders increased saving rates in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines.

Of course, this is not the first body of work to summarize key behavioral lessons learned from decades of careful research on financial inclusion: See, for example, Chapters 6-9 of Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics or the Bank’s 2014 GFDR on Financial Inclusion.) But these examples do help drive home the key message of the report: Paying attention to how people think, and to how history and context shape their thinking, can improve the design and implementation of development policies and interventions that target human behavior.

The report highlights that psychological impulses such as present bias, loss aversion and cognitive overload can lead to poor financial decision-making. For those in or on the edge of poverty, the ramifications of these poor decisions – low savings, chronic over-indebtedness, investment shortsightedness – can be devastating. We are reminded that most adults in developing economies do not benefit from the sophisticated financial tools such as automatic salary deposits, mandatory retirement contributions, or default insurance programs that help mitigate the effects of automatic thinking.

Yet, as outlined in Chapter 6, there are a range of interventions that have been shown to help address behavioral constraints on financial decisions in a developing-country context. Many of those interventions take advantage of what we know about the natural processes of the mind, using techniques such as framing, default settings and emotion persuasion to nudge people toward better financial decisions.

Engaging governments to increase their capacity: lessons from Tajikistan

Oleksii Balabushko's picture
Pomegranate farm. Tajikistan. Photo: Gennadiy Ratushenko / World Bank

 In 2010-14, we were facing a challenging task: develop a new approach to increase institutional and leadership capacity in Tajikistan’s public sector, including internal capability to initiate reforms. 

How do you build government capacity in a low income fragile state  in a way that would fit with the country context?

If you are familiar with the Western part of the former Soviet Union and have never been to Tajikistan, you are in for a surprise. The differences with countries such as Ukraine or Georgia are staggering.  To put things in the global perspective, Tajikistan has a GDP per capita lower than Cameroon, Djibouti and Papua New Guinea. The country suffered a civil war that lasted five years (1992-1997), resulted in massive internal displacement and decimated civil service. Despite establishing formal governing institutions after the war, institutional capacity remains weak.

Rising Financial Pressures from the East

Aurora Ferrari's picture
It’s hard to get a break in the Europe and Central Asia region, it seems – even a short one. Hit hard by the troubles in the Eurozone at the beginning of the decade, emerging and developing countries in Eastern Europe are, at the beginning of this year, contending with renewed fears. Meanwhile, external pressures have built up on the Central Asia side as well.

All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.

What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.

The GSMA Code of Conduct for Mobile Money Providers: Does It Go Far Enough to Protect Consumers?

Ros Grady's picture


The recently launched GSM Association Code of Conduct for Mobile Money Providers is a welcome initiative. There is increasing recognition of the economic benefits that digital financial services can bring, along with an understanding that achieving ambitious financial inclusion targets may well depend on their rapid rollout. Such targets are being proposed by the World Bank, under the Maya Declaration and in other forums.

At the same time, there is a recognition that consumer protection is a critical element in building trust in the use of such services. See, for example, Principle 4 of the G20 Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion and the recently held Responsible Finance Forum, as well as the outcomes of the 2014 deliberations of the 2014 Global Partnership on Financial Inclusion.

The code of conduct will apply to “mobile money providers” and to “mobile money.” The former term is not defined (could a bank be a provider?), whilst the latter term has a broad definition that provides (in summary)  that “mobile money is a transformational service that uses information and communication technologies (ICIs) and non-bank retail channels to extend the delivery of financial services to clients who cannot be reached profitably with traditional branch-based financial services.” The example given (in summary) is an e-wallet, payments-related service.

The object of the code is expressed as being, in short, to support the continued development of the industry by:
  • "Improving [the] quality of services and customer satisfaction;​
  • "Facilitating the implementation of trusted partnerships; and 
  • "Building trust with regulators and encouraging the implementation of appropriate and proportional regulatory standards.


To support these objectives, there are eight principles dealing with safeguarding client funds; measures to combat money laundering and terrorism financing; monitoring of staff, agents and entities providing outsourced services; reliable service provision; security of the mobile network and channel; the provision of information to customers; complaints and personal data.

The ‘safety trap’ and Eurozone secular stagnation

Biagio Bossone's picture

The ‘safety trap’ hypothesis and secular stagnation 

Noting that Eurozone inflation has been declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts, Landau (2104) suggests that underpinning those evolutions, including the lack of growth, might be one factor: an excess demand for ‘safe assets’. Essentially — Landau argues — agents have responded to extreme risk aversion by developing a strong inclination for holding liquid and safe assets (typically money and government bonds). In order to accumulate more of these assets, they have reduced consumption and investment, thus depressing aggregate demand. When inflation is low and the economy hits the zero lower bound (ZLB), interest rates cannot reach their (negative) equilibrium levels and the economy falls into what Landau refers to as a ‘safety trap’, with cumulative disinflation, increasing real interest rates, and depression setting in. This sounds as a plausible explanation for secular stagnation in the Eurozone.

Strengthening the Ecosystem to Mainstream Inclusive Businesses

Pallavi Shrivastava's picture



“Intelligence and capability are not enough; there must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.”
These words by Dr. Venkataswamy tower over us as we enter the flagship Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India, and continue to reflect in the staff’s philosophy during our short visit.

The Aravind Eye Hospital needs no introduction. Tucked in the remote south of India, it is the result of its founder’s vision of eliminating needless blindness. Started in 1976 by Dr. Venkataswamy, the hospital provides accessible, affordable and quality eye care to all sections of the society through cross-subsidization, which creates a commercially viable and sustainable business model.

Aravind Eye Care is an example of a business model innovation, also referred to as an ‘inclusive business model’. IFC defines inclusive business models as those offering goods, services and livelihoods to the poor in financially sustainable and scalable ways. Globally, inclusive businesses are being recognized as important players for development. More entrepreneurs are realizing the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) market as an opportunity to design and implement innovative solutions. As per an IFC study, the BoP represents a potential market of $5 trillion globally - the largest slice of this lies in South Asia, particularly India, given the size of BoP population in the region.

However, inclusive businesses continue to face several barriers in scaling and replicating their success such as lack of access to finance, absence of trained human resources, weak supply chain linkages etc. and above all, an underdeveloped support ecosystem to overcome critical market gaps. Addressing these barriers will not only help capitalize on the growth potential but also mainstream the sector.

World Bank Group is playing a catalytic role in unlocking opportunities for innovative, impact focused businesses. The South Asia Inclusive Business Program has been working towards enhancing private sector participation and inclusive business activity in the region. While working on the high level through systemic interventions, the team is also connecting with organizations on the ground by supporting them to scale sustainably and/or replicate across borders.

Managing EU Funds – What We Can Learn from Slovenia

Maya V. Gusarova's picture
Effective management of European Union (EU) funds is not only high on the agenda of the new EU member states but also of the Western Balkan countries that are progressing in the EU integration process. As such, these countries face several important challenges and questions today.

On becoming an EU member, how much will the budget calendar and its preparation need to change? How best to plan and execute projects which are pre-financed? How to record unspent EU funds in the next fiscal year? To what extent should the Ministry of Finance be involved in the process before the signing of financial agreements with the EU? These and other questions arise in relation to the impact on a country’s fiscal position, co-financing obligations, pre-financings and bridging resources, and payment of errors.

Building on Central America’s Strengths

Oscar Calvo's picture



Soon will be January 1, 2015. Most of us will make New Year’s resolutions and most of us will fail to keep them. Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. But it turns out that we are much more likely to make good on our resolutions if we decide to build upon our strengths rather than focus on fixing what’s wrong. This insight is all the more important if we combine it with the intriguing view that it is the depth of our strengths, not the absence of weaknesses, which makes us successful. People are successful not because they are perfect but because they have deep strengths. What if this was also the case for countries?

With this in mind I turn my attention to some of the strengths of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three countries that have recently put together their Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle.” The Plan is in part a response to the well-known security challenges facing those countries and the challenges posed by the surge in unaccompanied migrant children but it is also an opportunity to focus on the strengths of the Northern Triangle of Central America and how to develop them even further. And when one goes beyond the headlines one discovers a variety of success stories.

Remittances: A Gateway to Financial Inclusion for Poor People

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
As the United Nations marks International Migrants Day, it’s worth remembering that over 230 million people in the world are migrants. Whether they’re mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, wives or  husbands,  they left home to look for work elsewhere, usually abroad, to support families left behind.

Across the Climate Conference, We Saw Extraordinary Energy & Commitment to a Cleaner Future

Rachel Kyte's picture
At the climate talks in Lima


In the corridors and sessions at the UN climate talks in Lima over the past two weeks, there has been extraordinary power and energy. We’ve seen material action as the financial sector starts to transform how it thinks about long-term risk. Coalitions are working together on tax reform, regulatory reform, and putting a price on carbon, and country after county is saying that they have been able to clean up their regulatory framework and put themselves in a position to grow. 


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