Highlights of Last Year Provide Springboard for 2019

Here's a rundown of some major CFI accomplishments we seek to build on in the coming year.

Looking forward to the next 12 months means looking back to what we achieved in 2018 to see what we can build on. With that in mind, here are just some of things we were up to last year that make it a hard act to follow. What would you like to see more of in 2019? Leave a comment below.

  • Our assessment of the 2017 Global Findex, Financial Inclusion Hype vs. Reality, uncovered sobering truths about financial inclusion progress: account growth has slowed, the access-usage gap is widening, credit is flat and savings is declining, and digital payments usage is increasing.
  • Data security was top of mind for many in 2018, and CFI is no exception. Two reports by CFI Fellows Patrick Traynor and John Owens highlighted the need for ensuring digital financial transactions are safe and secure, and fostering improved consumer protection in digital lending.
  • On the subject of technology in financial services, Finance for All: Wedded to Fintech, for Better or Worse, a global survey of the financial inclusion community, found that new technologies are creating new opportunities as well as new risks that providers will need to prudently manage.
  • Financial Inclusion Week featured 150 partner organizations, more than a dozen blog posts and podcasts, 25 events hosted online and off for a total of over 1,100 participants. The week’s capstone event was the CFI 10th Anniversary Symposium, a day-long convening that brought together nearly 200 people from across geographies to discuss where we’ve been and what lies ahead over the next 10 years. Leading up to the Symposium and Financial Inclusion Week, we published a reflective 10-essay series, Getting Inclusion Right. We asked leaders across financial inclusion to reflect on what’s worked, what hasn’t and what we should do toward a goal of — as you might’ve already guessed — getting inclusion right. Infrastructure, credit, payments and insurance were some of the topics diverse thought leaders examined. Financial Inclusion Week gave us a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to look forward to!
  • The Smart Campaign marked an important milestone this year: more than 100 Smart-certified financial institutions, further solidifying this distinction as the leading financial customer protection standard, ensuring that financial services are delivered safely and responsibly to low-income clients.
  • We collaborated with The Economist Intelligence Unit to publish the Global Microscope, a close look into the enabling environments for financial inclusion in 55 countries. Many of the perennial leaders, such as Peru and Colombia, again topped the rankings, but there were some surprises. See where your country is ranked.
  • The Africa Board Fellowship Program kicked off its seventh cohort of financial inclusion leaders. They convened in Cape Town last spring to learn and share best practices for strengthening governance, improving risk-management practices, and building strategic leadership abilities.
  • Speaking of executive education, the HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance graduated another 60-plus strong cohort during a six-day, intensive learning module in Boston. We’re looking forward to building on this success yet again with another cohort this spring. Could you be one of them in 2019? The application deadline is January 11.
  • Last but not least, 2018 was a year of progress toward helping mainstream financial institutions overcome barriers to reaching underserved people with quality financial services. The Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion report series featured three reports this year: on technology helping providers reach “thin-file” clients, on banks leveraging innovative methods to increase usage and customer confidence, and on how insurance can be formulated to effectively serve millions at the bottom of the pyramid. We think these make for some excellent after-work or weekend reading material.

Also, thank you for reading the CFI Blog, and reach out to us if you have ideas for financial inclusion posts in 2019 (no cryptocurrency promotion, please…unless it’s for the financially underserved, of course).

Here’s to happy blogging in the new year!

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