Regulators play a significant role in catalyzing or impeding a country’s progress toward financial inclusion. By evaluating five domains of the regulatory environments in 55 countries (i.e., government and policy support, stability and integrity, products and outlets, consumer protection and infrastructure), the Global Microscope identifies each country’s current policies and regulations and notes which are likely to create an enabling environment for financial inclusion.

The 2019 Global Microscope features 11 new gender-focused indicators that measure financial inclusion for both women and men. These new indicators can help policymakers identify areas that could potentially improve women’s ability to access and use the financial tools they need to thrive.

The Global Microscope is produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit with policy guidance and financial support from leading organizations in the field, including CFI.

Major Findings

  • The enabling environment for financial inclusion has improved in the 55 countries covered in the Global Microscope 2019. Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay maintained the top rankings again this year. Likewise, the countries covered in the study’s regional analysis of Latin America and the Caribbean maintained the most favorable regulatory environments. These findings are at odds with access and usage data that show that Latin America and the Caribbean have recently fallen behind other regions. This points to the limitations that policies play in driving outcomes. They can contribute, but policies alone are insufficient in driving desired outcomes.
  • Practical impediments – such as limited access to identification, the Internet, and/or mobile phones – restrict women’s ability to use digital financial services.
  • Argentina, Costa Rica, Honduras, Russia, and other countries continue to adopt financial inclusion strategies and incorporate digital approaches to foster inclusion. In the past, national-level programs have led to the most progress over the short and long term.
  • Consumer protection and privacy laws are evolving to respond to the unique challenges that fintech presents, but few countries have updated their consumer protection regulations to account for the risks posed by digital players.

Calls to Action

Policymakers must ensure that both women and men are enabled to utilize and empowered benefit from greater financial inclusion. As the landscape for financial inclusion continues to evolve, and as financial service providers adopt new technologies and approaches, governments will need to implement policies to ensure that potential users develop the necessary capabilities and possess key enablers to access and use these products (such as national ID and mobile phones). This includes developing and implementing policies specifically designed to address gender disparities in access to these enablers.

Governments must ensure their national strategies do not worsen the gender gap. As financial inclusion policy shifts its focus towards the promotion of digital financial services, regulators and policymakers must address this digital gender gap or risk contributing to even greater disparities in access to financial services between women and men. Although nearly four-fifths of countries in the Microscope have strategies or initiatives to promote digital literacy, only one-fifth incorporate a gender approach into these programs.


Authors

Susy Cheston

Independent Consultant

Susy Cheston is a consultant in financial inclusion and financial wellness. She focuses on building strategies and partnerships to advance customer-centered innovations on behalf of those who have been excluded, in the U.S. and emerging markets.

Danielle Piskadlo

Former Director, Investing in Inclusive Finance

Danielle Piskadlo worked with the Investing in Inclusive Finance team from 2011 to 2019. She was responsible for developing capacity of board members through peer learning and exchange. Danielle also worked closely with investors to make active, sustainable investments in financial institutions that serve the base of the pyramid. Danielle holds Master’s Degrees in International Business from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont.

Brian Clancy

CFI Advisory Council Member

Mr.Clancy served on the Advisory Council of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion. He is a former Accion board member. Mr. Clancy served as the CEO of In the Nation’s Interest – a social enterprise dedicated to increasing civic engagement. Prior to that he served as the President of the Boston Public Library Foundation. He also was a member of the Foundation’s Board, the Board of the Associates of the Boston Public Library and Chairman of the BPL Special Collections Committee. In addition, Brian was a senior manager at Fidelity Investments for 15 years. There he served as Chief Financial Officer and head of investment operations for Fidelity Management and Research. Other roles he played there included SVP New Business and Market Development, SVP Investment Management Technology, and SVP Defined Contribution Services. Mr. Clancy holds an MBA from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Hema Bansal

Former Senior Director, South and Southeast Asia, Smart Campaign

Hema managed Smart Campaign initiatives in eight countries, including India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal and Laos. She was involved in exploring new business opportunities for the Smart Campaign supporting the implementation of the theory of change of the campaign. She was program manager for several projects at Smart Campaign including, IFC, World Bank, ADB and several other projects funded by networks in the world for improving consumer protection practices. Hema has a Ph.D under the Reserve Bank of Fellowship program along with several publications to her credit.

 

 

 

Isabelle Barrès

Former Vice President and Campaign Director, Smart Campaign

Isabelle led global efforts to keep clients first in financial inclusion. She came to the Smart Campaign with over 20 years of experience in financial inclusion and banking. Deeply motivated to reduce inequality and improve the lives of vulnerable people, she has devoted her career to spearheading innovative solutions that increase access to quality financial services and contribute to improving people’s lives. From 2007 to 2010, she managed Kiva’s early operations and developed its global strategy to maximize social impact. She helped to create the MIX in 2002 and led its strategic initiatives until 2007. Isabelle holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Montréal, an MBA from McGill University, and a post-graduate degree in development economics from the Sorbonne.

Alex Rizzi

Senior Research Director, Consumer Data Opportunities and Risks

Since joining CFI in 2012, Alex has been an advocate for consumer protection and evidence-based inclusive finance practices.

She manages the responsible data practices research portfolio at CFI which focuses on opportunities and risks for low-income consumers from data-driven financial services. Previously, she was a senior director for CFI’s Smart Campaign initiative, where she managed consumer-protection learning agendas and helped launch the Client Protection Certification Program.

Prior to joining CFI, Alex was a project development manager at Innovations for Poverty Action, where she helped create its microsavings and payments innovation initiative (now part of its global financial inclusion initiative), a research fund focused on impact evaluations of savings products and payment systems. She also worked at the Centre for Microfinance at IFMR Research (now Krea University) in Chennai, India, where she was the head of knowledge management and dissemination.

She has participated in multiple industry working groups on responsible finance, including an advisory group to GSMA’s mobile money certification program and the Microfinance Center’s social performance fund steering committee.

Alex is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s degree from Georgetown’s foreign service school, as well as a certificate in digital money from the Digital Frontiers Institute and The Fletcher School at Tufts University. She speaks conversational French and needs to work on her Italian.

Deborah Drake

Consultant

Deborah Drake was a member of CFI’s staff from its inception in 2008 until 2022. Currently, she serves as a consultant to CFI and Accion. In her previous role as vice president of investor engagement and research, Deborah led CFI’s investor engagement and governance efforts to strengthen the inclusive finance ecosystem. She directed the Financial Inclusion Equity Council (FIEC), a membership organization of private entities making equity investments in financial institutions in the developing world. She also led CFI’s research work in the impact investing space.

Before the establishment of CFI, Deborah held multiple leadership roles at Accion focused on developing and implementing financial initiatives to facilitate microfinance institutions’ access to capital. She managed Accion’s $9 million guarantee fund for Latin America and the United States, and led the financial analysis unit, which collected and analyzed data to achieve greater financial transparency and establish international standards of financial performance for microfinance institutions. Deborah also was responsible for the development and delivery of training to microfinance institutions in the areas of transformation, governance, and investment readiness.

Deborah is co-editor of The Commercialization of Microfinance: Balancing Business and Development, and the co-author of Alchemists for the Poor: NGOs as Financial Institutions. Before joining Accion, she was a banking specialist at the World Bank and a commercial banker.

Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and an MBA from Babson College. She speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Josh Goldstein

Former Vice President, Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion

Josh was part of the team that founded CFI in 2009. He served as the vice president and program manager for the Center’s Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities initiative, where he spearheaded the development of the Framework for Disability Inclusion, which he helped launch at Fundación Paraguaya. As the Center’s global advocate for disability inclusion, Josh spoke about disability at conferences around the world, and worked closely with the United Nations on disability issues. He also oversaw a partnership with five MFIs in India and the Indian disability support organization v-shesh, for which he received a national award from NCPDEP in August 2014.

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