It’s the time of year when you take stock of what you’ve done and plan your coming year. And here at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), we’re doing the same thing: reflecting and planning. Here are five highlights from 2019 as we pursue our mission to engage and challenge the industry to better serve, protect and empower clients. We look forward to engaging our community anew in 2020!
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1 Made consumer protection in digital finance an imperative
In a world where face-to-face contact in financial services is on the decline, we took up the “protection by design” call and created the Digital Credit Standards, which incorporate feedback from consumers, researchers and financial service providers. The Handbook on Consumer Protection for Inclusive Finance was also released, providing a legal and regulatory framework to protect low-income consumers. We heard from hundreds of digital financial service clients in Rwanda in our most recent Client Voices report; and we commissioned a study on the state of digital credit in Kenya, highlighting challenges and making recommendations on customer centricity.
2 Continued to shape the next generation of financial inclusion leaders
We believe strong board leadership is crucial for social enterprises to grow and have impact. In October, following the conclusion of the 5-year Africa Board Fellowship Program, we launched the Board Leadership for Impact Program for social enterprise leaders to learn and exchange ideas on governance, digitalization and inclusive digital finance. And since 2006, we continue to provide management and leadership training to microfinance leaders via the HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance.
3 Engaged with mainstream banks to reach the underserved
We also published the final the two reports from our Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion: Best Practices project in 2019. These briefs focus on agent models and how technology can boost their quality and effectiveness, and how the customer journey has morphed in the digital era – with unique examples from the industry. These reports facilitate learning and action on six key challenge areas of serving unbanked and underbanked customers.
4 Transitioned to new leadership
In September, I took the reins at CFI as Elisabeth Rhyne, our founding Managing Director, retired. With new leadership and a new year will come unique strategic priorities, and in the first months of 2020, we’ll announce our new strategic imperatives for the new year and beyond.
5 Guided Financial Inclusion Week 2019
For the fourth annual Financial Inclusion Week, we solicited contributions from members of the financial inclusion community, this year under the theme “Financial Inclusion: For What?”. And you responded: thousands took part engaging with blog posts, sharing their perspectives and research, and interacting with webinars, podcasts, quizzes and in-person events by dozens of partners worldwide. You gave us your thoughts and votes on which areas – equity, financial health, the bottom line, sustainable development – you believe financial inclusion’s ultimate purpose lies. #FinclusionWeek