Big Unanswered Questions in Financial Inclusion? Calling on Readers to Weigh In!

> Posted by Center Staff

What are the most important questions that need to be researched in the financial inclusion arena?

The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion will soon launch a fellows program to support research and thought leadership in financial inclusion – and we are calling on you to help! The purpose of this program will be to encourage independent researchers and analysts to examine some of the most important challenges in the financial inclusion arena. We plan to select a few priority research topics for fellows to examine.

Here’s where you come in. Below is a list of research topics that members of our Financial Inclusion 2020 team believe need answering. We’re checking in with you – our blog audience – to find out which topics you think are the most important to investigate. Please consider this list a starting point. Give us thumbs up or down on the topics listed, and propose topics of your own. Once we select the top priority questions, we will issue a call for proposals. Meanwhile, we offer this list to provoke a broader conversation about research needed in the financial inclusion field.

You can respond either in the comment block below, or by email to

Technology-related topics

  1. Impact of ubiquitous internet access on the business models for financial inclusion. By 2020, the vast majority of the world’s people will have access to internet through smart phones and tablets. Internet access could transform the way financial service providers and customers interact and facilitate a richer interface with customers. What scenarios are possible and are providers ready to respond?
  1. Under what conditions do “on-ramps” lead to deeper inclusion? With the World Bank’s commitment to Universal Financial Access focused on connecting people to transaction accounts, the next question is how (and whether) such connections lead to active account usage or access to additional products. What are the cases of successful access expansion that have led to deeper inclusion and why did they succeed?

  1. Role of fintech start-ups in provoking industry-wide change. Are fintech start-ups cool but not especially relevant, or are they creating the future? It’s clear that they only matter if they generate large impact. Some start-ups scale directly; others are acquired by large companies; still others provoke competitors. Picking one or more types of fintech, how are start-ups changing the mainstream?
  1. Empowering the front line through technology. Much attention has been paid to use of technology (tablets, cell phones, POS devices) to increase the productivity of front line staff. But how can these devices also help as training and human resource management tools or as means to provide information that adds value to the client experience?
  1. Cost savings from technology in financial service delivery. Financial institutions are incorporating technology into their operations, trying to reducing costs. They use data analytics to streamline credit underwriting, digital field applications to boost productivity, and mobile payments to reduce the cost of handling transactions. Has such automation actually led to lower costs (or other benefits)?
  1. BOP businesses and digital payment acceptance. Building a cash-lite ecosystem depends on creating an acceptance environment (P2B) where the merchants that BOP customers buy from and sell to can process electronic payments. What is the experience to date in enrolling BOP merchants in digital payment acceptance, and what factors promote or prohibit this transformation?

Customers and products

  1. Meeting big life needs. Households need financial services to help them manage milestones like education, marriage, shelter, and older age. Research could select one or more life milestones and examine the prospects for significant innovation in a financial service to support it.
  1. Clients that grow from microenterprise to small business. An increasing number of veteran clients of microfinance institutions (MFIs) began borrowing as microenterprises and are now small businesses with higher turnover and more employees. What factors supported such growth? How do the financial service needs of these enterprises change at larger scale?
  1. MFI experience with SME portfolios. A number of MFIs now offer services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Performance of SME portfolios has been varied, as have the approaches used in serving these clients. What has the experience been and what underwriting and risk management tools have been successful?
  1. Learning from informal financial servicesMany people continue to use informal financial services even as they increase use of formal services. What lessons do robust forms of informal services have for formal service providers?

Policy and regulation

  1. How is the doctrine of “proportionality” working for the BOP? The standard setting bodies for the global financial sector call for a proportionate approach to regulation, recognizing that complicated verifications make small accounts and transactions unprofitable. Where are tiered KYC and other proportional approaches being used, and are they succeeding?
  1. Alternative data from a consumer perspective. Poor people’s increasing use of technology yields data that has value—but how can they participate in the value of the information they create? And avoid its misuse? What are the risks and benefits to clients from use of alternative data and what policies and conditions minimize risk and support benefits?
  1. Your topic here…

Image credit: Accion

Have you read?

New Research Highlights Increasing Use of Alternative Data in Credit Reporting

Individually Tailored Financial Education: What the Research Tells Us Is Possible

New Research on Barriers to Basic Savings Accounts Is a Cautionary Tale for India’s Financial Inclusion Push

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