Two billion people worldwide still lack access to formal and regulated financial services. In 2015, the Bank Group with private and public sector partners committed to promoting financial inclusion and achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020. We've invited our partners to reflect on why they've joined the UFA2020 initiative and how they're contributing toward this goal. This contribution comes from the Global Banking Alliance for Women. #FinAccess2020
Photo: GBA Stock Image
As a global community, we’ve made great strides toward achieving the World Bank Group’s goal of universal financial inclusion by 2020. According to the Global Findex, 700 million people gained access to formal financial services between 2011 and 2014. This is equivalent to nearly the entire population of Europe. But the latest numbers from the Global Findex also revealed a startling fact: The gender gap in financial inclusion remains stubbornly intact, with women in emerging economies 20% less likely to have a bank account than men and 17% less likely to have borrowed formally.
Women who lack access to financial services face a number of related obstacles, including lower income and business growth, lower asset ownership – making it harder to borrow – and lower levels of financial capability. These factors, combined with increasing financial responsibility for their households, make . Recognizing that commercial banks can and must play a vital role in closing the financial access gender gap, the Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) made a commitment in April 2015 with a subset of its members – Banco BHD León of the Dominican Republic, Banco Pichincha of Ecuador and Diamond Bank Plc of Nigeria – to provide financial access to 1.8 million previously unbanked women in Latin America and Africa by 2020.
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.
More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia and its robust growth is supporting the world economy. After weathering well the 2008 crisis Asia is now in the spotlight with currencies depreciating and capital markets in retreat. One widely voiced concern is rapid expansion of credit in the past decade fueled by abundant liquidity. Globally, and in Asia, regulatory response to the 2008 crisis has been to strengthen financial regulation and de-risk financial intermediation. Yet the reality of credit markets in most Asian economies is quite different from that in high income economies. While domestic credit by financial sector represented on average over 100% of GDP for high income OECD countries, emerging Asia’s average in 2014 stood at 60%. The differences across countries are substantial in this diverse region, but in two thirds of Asian economies domestic credit is less than 60% of GDP. The reality for most economies in Asia is that of limited and often inefficient financial markets which do not serve fully their growth needs. Low level of financial inclusion is a major contributing factor and a major challenge.
The Client Protection Principles: Model Law and Commentary for Financial Consumer Protection (the "Model Law"), recently launched by the Microfinance CEO Working Group, has the potential to be a useful resource for the many developing and emerging economies that are seeking to design and implement international best practices in financial consumer protection, having recognized that consumer protection is a critical element in building and maintaining trust in the financial sector and achieving financial inclusion targets.
The Model Law was prepared on a pro-bono basis by the international law firm DLA Piper on the basis of the 7 Client Protection Principles of the Smart Campaign. The project, which took place over a 15-month period and was managed by Accion on behalf of the Council of Microfinance Counsels, included consultations with financial inclusion stakeholders and legal experts, who undertook a review of existing legal frameworks in various countries. Reference was also made to international best practices and principles such as the World Bank’s Good Practices on Financial Consumer Protection and the G20 High Level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection.
The Model Law is a high-level, activities-based law that is intended to apply equally to all financial-services providers. This includes “banks, credit unions, microfinance institutions, money lenders and digital financial-service providers.” The apparent aim is to ensure an equal level of protection for all consumers and a level playing field. The consumers concerned may be an individual or a micro-, small or medium-sized business, and so the law will apply equally to consumption and small-business facilities. Many of the provisions are framed in terms of principles, the detail of which would need to be filled out in related legislation.
The framework of the Model Law follows the Smart Campaign’s 7 Client Protection Principles, and so it covers the topics of appropriate product design and delivery; prevention of overindebtedness; transparency; responsible pricing; fair and respectful treatment of clients; privacy of client data; and mechanisms for complaint resolution. There is also a section covering the establishment of a dedicated supervisory authority with broad functions relating to the regulation, supervision and registration of financial-services providers, market monitoring and enforcement.
How can financial inclusion and financial integrity policies complement each other? That question was addressed in a report recently released looking at the state of Ethiopia’s anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.
The assessment was conducted by a World Bank Group team of experts and published by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). This is the first assessment of a developing country to be published that uses the revised 2012 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards.
Ethiopia’s compliance with the international standards on AML/CFT had never been assessed before, and this report sheds light on the functioning of a unique and vibrant economy in Africa. In addition, this is the first AML/CFT assessment to highlight the connection between financial inclusion and financial integrity policies.
As noted in an earlier blog post, entitled "The Royal Stamp of Inclusion," the FATF has confirmed that financial inclusion and financial integrity are mutually reinforcing public-policy objectives. The revised FATF standards have a more explicit focus on the risk-based approach in implementing an AML/CFT framework. This approach allows for the identification of lower risk scenarios and the application of simplified AML/CFT measures in certain areas (primarily customer due diligence, or CDD).
The Ethiopia assessment notes that only about 28 percent of the population is served by the formal financial system – leaving 72 percent of the population dependent on cash or informal financial service providers. The Ethiopian government has identified the expansion of formal financial services as a national priority, through its “Growth and Transformation Plan” and the “Ethiopian Financial Inclusion Project.”
The assessment makes suggestions as to how the Ethiopian authorities can “link up” the policies of inclusion and integrity – for example, by allowing for simplified customer due diligence processes, and by providing guidance to financial institutions on the issue.
Why is it important for the private sector to help with this first step?
In increasingly competitive global markets, companies are searching for ways to differentiate themselves, to deepen their reach in existing markets and to expand to new markets. Greater financial access for women would yield a growing market opportunity with phenomenal profit potential for companies. The size of the women’s market, and the resulting business opportunity, is striking:
- Business credit: There is a $300 billion gap in lending capital for formal, women-owned small businesses. Of the 8 to 10 million such businesses in 140 countries, more than 70 percent receive few or no financial services.
- Insurance Products: The Female Economy, a study in the Harvard Business Review, reported that the women’s market for insurance is calculated to be worth trillions of dollars.
- Digital payments: Women’s lack of cellphone ownership and use means that millions cannot access digital-payment systems. Closing the gap in access to this technology over the next five years could open a $170 billion market to the mobile industry alone.
Greater financial access for women would yield a growing market opportunity with phenomenal profit potential for companies.
For the past several years at IFC, I’ve been working with the private sector, namely financial institutions, to address the supply-and-demand constraints that women face when trying to access the formal financial system. IFC tackles these constraints in three ways:
- Defining the size of the women’s market, female-owned and -led SMEs, and as individual consumers of financial services
- Showing financial institutions how to tap into the women’s market opportunity by developing offerings that combine financial products, such as credit, savings and insurance, with non-financial services such as training in business skills
- Increasing women’s access through convenient delivery channels, such as online, mobile and branchless banking
The conference panel of leading scholars and practitioners on microcredit: From left to right: Esther Duflo, Kate McKee, Lindsay Wallace, Carol Caruso, and Peer Stein.
Photo credit: Michael Rizzo.
On Friday, February 27, researchers, policymakers, investors and practitioners joined forces to move forward in the dialogue around microcredit’s impact on the lives of the poor. Many themes emerged from the day, but perhaps the most salient came from Dean Karlan, who summed things up in 2 words: “Understand clients.”
The conference began with six presentations from researchers Orazio Attanasio, Abhijit Banerjee, Jaikishan Desai, Esther Duflo, Dean Karlan and Costas Meghir, who completed randomized control trials (RCTs) in six countries examining the impact of microcredit. Lindsay Wallace, of the MasterCard Foundation, noted, “These studies may not be new, but they are incredibly important.” While specific findings varied from country to country, the studies confirmed with evidence what many in the field already assumed: that, while microcredit can be good for some, it is no magic bullet for tackling poverty.
On Friday, February 27, CGAP, IPA, JPAL and the World Bank will host a full-day event to share the latest evidence from six randomized controlled trials across six countries. The event will feature the results presented by the researchers themselves, followed by a discussion on what this evidence means for policy and practice.
The impact of microcredit has been widely debated for the past decade, and has been both vilified and celebrated as a development tool. This new set of RCTs goes a long way toward confirming what many have suspected, but argued without much evidence, in recent years: that while microcredit can benefit some, the effects on poverty are modest, not transformational. Microcredit is but one tool in a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the multi-dimensional nature of poverty.
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.
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.