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Financial Sector

The things we do: How your mobile phone records can predict your creditworthiness

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Jinotega, NicaraguaRisk is a financial term that can mean life or death for a budding entrepreneur.  Many entrepreneurs need to take out loans from banks in order to have enough money to start their businesses.  Banks, though, need to be able to reliably determine which of these potential entrepreneurs will repay the loans and which will default. In developed countries this is usually accomplished through credit reports, which contain an individual’s credit history as reported to a credit bureau by lenders. This system, however, can be problematic in developing countries where many people do not have bank accounts, don’t interact frequently with formal institutions, or are paid informally in cash.  As a result, banks often lack verifiable information on the probability that a loan applicant will be successful. 

Interestingly, one set of data that is available in most countries is mobile phone records.  By the end of 2015, there will be more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions, with a penetration rate of 97%, up from 738 million in 2000.  Due to the incredible market saturation of mobile phones and the ability of mobile phone operators to keep records of call activity (even with prepaid plans), operator records can provide rich information about individual behavior and social networks.  For example, phone records indicate whether or not an individual keeps their balance top-upped so that they can make calls in case of an emergency, how many people they call during the day, how long their calls last, and so on.

Daniel Björkegren, an economist at Brown University and Darrell Grissen of the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab (EFL) wondered whether these phone records could reveal insights into an individual’s behaviors that could be applied elsewhere- specifically whether this information could determine an individual’s creditworthiness.

Why are payment services essential for financial inclusion?

Massimo Cirasino's picture

Joint Development Bank's ATM, Lao PDR. IFC Photo Collection

While some 700 million people have gained access to a transaction account between 2011 and 2014, there are still about 2 billion adults in the world who lack access to transaction accounts offered by regulated and/or authorized financial service providers. The increased role that non-banks play in financial services, particularly in the payments area, has contributed to making them available and useful to many people who were previously locked out of the financial system. 
There is broad recognition that financial inclusion can help people get out of poverty as it can help them better manage their finances. Access to a transaction account is the first step in that direction. A transaction account allows people to take advantage of different (electronic) ways to send or receive payments, and it can serve as a gateway to other financial products, such as credit, saving and insurance.

Payment services are usually the first and typically most often used financial service. Understanding how payment aspects can affect financial inclusion efforts is important not only for the Committee of Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI) of the Bank for International Settlements and the World Bank Group, but for all stakeholders with interest in increasing financial access and broader financial inclusion.

SMEs are good business for Kenya’s growing banking sector

Gunhild Berg's picture

Maasai women make, sell and display their bead work in Kajiado, Kenya. 2010. Photo: © Georgina Goodwin/World Bank

Kenya’s financial sector has expanded rapidly over the last decade and lending to businesses—including small and medium size-enterprises has played a big part. As the Kenyan economy is enjoying a period of relatively high growth, the financial sector’s ongoing ability to channel credit affordably and efficiently to SMEs will be needed to underpin inclusive and sustained economic development.
To better understand the SME finance landscape in Kenya, a World Bank-FSD Kenya team embarked on a study with the Central Bank of Kenya to explore the supply-side of SME finance. In addition to quantifying the extent of banks’ involvement with SMEs, the study shows the exposure of different types of banks to the SME market, the portfolio of services most used by SMEs, and the quality of assets. Our report also discusses the regulatory framework for SME finance, the drivers and obstacles of banks’ involvement with SMEs, and their specific business models. 

The determinants of long-term versus short-term bank credit in EU countries

Thierry Tressel's picture

In a new background paper prepared for the 2015/2016 Global Financial Development Report on Long-Term Finance, Haelim Park, Thierry Tressel and Claudia Ruiz analyze the growth of bank credit to firms in the emerging and advanced countries of the European Union.[1] By classifying loans according to their maturity, they document how long-term loans to enterprises in the emerging countries of the EU were growing substantially faster than in the rest of the region during the pre-crisis years.[2]

Four critical ingredients that Pakistan needs to rev up its economy and realize its potential

Muhammad Waheed's picture

Economic Growth in Pakistan is expected to accelerate from 4.0% in 2014 to 4.5% in 2016. What are some reasons for this moderate improvement and how could it unlock its potential to grow even faster in the future so that more of its people can benefit from and contribute to greater prosperity?

How is Pakistan doing? There has been an improvement in Pakistan’s economic environment due to lower domestic and external risks. Foreign exchange reserves have increased to an appropriate level given the size of Pakistan’s imports. Pakistanis working abroad sent home about $18.5 billion in FY2014/15 which contributed to financing the trade deficit. Government efforts to stabilize the economy have been greatly aided by the decline in international oil prices which has significantly reduced the import bill. Fiscal policy has also become more prudent, although further efforts will be needed to safeguard the hard-earned stability.

Pakistan needs to invest more to address the country’s challenges. The positive economic environment provides Pakistan with an opportunity to address structural bottle necks that are holding Pakistan back from realizing its immense potential, which is bolstered by a large, young and growing population. However, the country’s development outcomes have not kept up with its income growth and significant public and private investments are critical to realize the aspirations of its population and improve the country’s competitiveness.

The share of investment to GDP remains minimal at 15%, about half of the South Asian average at 30% and one of the lowest in the world. This means not that enough infrastructure is being built, people don’t have access to sufficient levels of energy and water, the quality of schools and hospitals are not optimal.  More worryingly, private investment as a share of GDP has been declining and stood at less than 10% in FY2014/15. Several factors are contributing to this low investment level.  

Dancing with angels, racing with gazelles and dreaming of unicorns

Simon Bell's picture

From IFC photo collection. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

There has been a lot of discussion around the topic of SMEs and job creation.  While SMEs can foster innovation, help diversify an economy, spread economic activity beyond the main urban hubs, give opportunities to women and youth and much more, their role in creating jobs – in the current economic environment – is key.

Interesting work by the Kauffman Foundation (see graph below) shows than virtually all new net job creation in the U.S. economy has been generated by firms that are less than five years-old and which, almost by definition, are more than likely to be small.  Although there is a huge amount of job churn in this class of enterprise (which are new and therefore probably small), the “net” impact is powerful.  A small subset of these firms are “gazelles” – or very fast growing enterprises – which grow from 5 to 500 employees in a five-year period, generating impressive results.

2014 Global Findex microdata provides a closer look at people’s use of financial services

Leora Klapper's picture
We’ve just rolled out the 2014 Global Findex microdata, which features about 1,000 individual-level surveys on financial inclusion for 143 economies worldwide. Check it out at the Findex homepage or in the World Bank's Data Catalogue.


Leveraging Islamic finance promotes growth and prosperity of small businesses

Bertrand Badré's picture
Shop owners get ready for another day of work in Cairo, Egypt. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

From the smallest rural villages in Bangladesh to the large, bustling metropolitan centers of Cairo or Istanbul, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islamic communities around the world, keeping local economies humming.

I first became interested in the potential of leveraging Islamic finance to grow SMEs when I led a seminar on the topic in 1997. I’ve come full circle, almost 20 years later, when I had the opportunity to speak last month in Istanbul at a conference on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs” organized by the World Bank Group, the Turkish Treasury, the Islamic Development Bank and TUMSIAD, the largest association of SMEs in the country with 10,000 members.

Quote of the week: Ben Bernanke

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Ben Bernanke“Individually rational behaviour can be collectively irrational. And that’s why the regulators have to do what they can to constrain individual behaviour, so that it doesn’t lead to collectively irrational outcomes.”

- Ben Bernanke, an American economist currently working at the Brookings Institution. He served two terms as chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, from 2006 to 2014. During his time as chairman, Bernanke oversaw the Federal Reserve's response to the late-2000s financial crisis. Bernanke wrote in his 2015 book, The Courage to Act, that the world's economy came close to collapse in 2007 and 2008 and that it was only the innovative efforts of the Federal Reserve, in cooperation with other agencies and agencies of foreign governments, that prevented an economic disaster greater than the Great Depression.  Prior to serving as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2002-2005 and proposed the Bernanke Doctrine concerning the source of deflation.  

Launching the 2014 Global Findex microdata

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

I am pleased to announce the release of the 2014 Global Findex microdata, which includes individual-level responses from almost 150,000 adults around the world. You can download it all here.

Drawing on interviews with adults in 143 countries, the 2014 Findex database measures account ownership at banks and other financial institutions and with mobile money providers, and explores how adults save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. For each of these countries, the microdata unpacks about 1,000 individual-level survey observations.

With this data, which was collected by Gallup, Inc. in calendar year 2014, you can dive deeper into the indicators presented in the main Findex database. For example, the country-level indicators explore the income gap by looking at adults in the poorest 40 percent and richest 60 percent of households, but the microdata splits it into quintiles. The microdata also covers topics that weren’t included on the country-level, such as unbanked adults' reasons for lacking an account.

For a more detailed discussion of Global Findex findings and methodology, visit our website and see our working paper.

I hope you will make good use of the data, and share your findings with us on Twitter @GlobalFindex.