Introducing Our 2017 CFI Fellows

> Posted by Center Staff

john-owensAfter reviewing many high-quality proposals, we are excited to announce the second cohort of CFI Fellows. Like the inaugural cohort, the new fellows will explore and answer some of the most pressing questions in the financial inclusion industry. The six 2017 fellows will design and produce actionable research, focusing on the topics of responsible online credit, human touch in a digital age, and the business case for financial capability. Read more about the upcoming research below and join us for a webinar tomorrow, December 14 to hear from the fellows themselves.

John Owens, Independent Consultant

What does responsible online credit look like?

Online lending for consumers, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is highly relevant and important to facilitating financial inclusion. However, trust, confidence, and responsible lending practices need to be in place to ensure that this industry is successful and that the customers are protected and empowered. CFI Fellow John Owens will examine the risks customers of online lending face and what best practices are, or should be considered, for setting consumer protection and risk mitigation standards for the emerging online financial services industry.

Patrick Traynor, University of Florida

What does responsible online credit look like?

Mobile phones and networks are transforming the world of finance. One of the most exciting possibilities for these technologies is that they create opportunities for widespread financial inclusion. Several companies are attempting to create new means of measuring credit-worthiness based on observing transactions made through mobile money applications. Done well, such a system holds the potential to dramatically expand financial inclusion. If not, it could unnecessarily bar millions from participating in the modern digital economy. CFI Fellow Patrick Traynor will conduct technical and policy analysis of mobile applications providing online credit, and offer recommendations on how the industry can approach responsible online credit based on these observations.

Misha Sharma and Shreya Chatterjee, IFMR Lead

What is effective human touch as India transitions to a digital age?

ifmrAlthough financial services are rapidly going digital, some customers, especially those new to the formal financial system or with lower levels of education, may still desire to interface with people—to build trust, to troubleshoot problems, and to receive advice on their financial lives. CFI Fellows Shreya Chatterjee and Misha Sharma are teaming up to explore the question of effective human touch in digital financial services as India transitions to a digital age.

Their research will look at two broad questions:

  • What are the different kinds of digital financial services available in India for the poor that facilitate human touch and how are these being leveraged by consumers and financial service providers?
  • What are the key challenges and opportunities for financial service providers in building effective human touch that is both sustainable and successful in transitioning the low end customers from manual to digital modes of transactions?

Alexis Beggs Olsen, Independent Consultant

What does effective human touch look like in Kenya’s digital age?

Ten years after the advent of M-PESA, Kenya is arguably inclusive digital finance’s most mature market and one of its ongoing innovation epicenters. However, many financial service providers (FSPs) in the country are crowded at the disruptive low-touch or traditional high-touch ends of the spectrum, merely facilitating payments through phones. Initial inquiries have suggested that FSPs are increasingly motivated by the limitations at both ends of the spectrum to explore various middle paths, and FSPs want to find ways to protect their strategic advantages while leveraging the promises of technology and the power of human touch.

CFI Fellow Alexis Beggs Olsen is exploring the topic of effective human touch in Kenya’s digital financial landscape. Her research focuses on two questions: 1) how human touch is offered to customers who are new to the formal financial system or with lower levels of education, and 2) how members of this target group actually desire human touch.

Justyna Pytkowska, the Microfinance Centre

What is the business viability of financial capability interventions?

Financial education has been a buzzword for almost a decade as more and more financial institutions and other stakeholders recognize that in order to improve financial inclusion, customers need to have the financial capability to use financial services for their benefit.

Many institutions are engaged in designing financial education programs, however, many pilot programs, often donor-driven, have failed to scale up or integrate with the core business of the institution. CFI Fellow Justyna Pytkowska will explore the viable cases of financial capability interventions that can serve as models for other financial institutions to replicate, contributing to the identification of best practices and innovative delivery models.

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