This spring, the World Bank released its latest Global Findex report, which is the most comprehensive scorecard available for measuring the progress of financial inclusion. While the data shows that the number of people without access to a financial account of any kind has dropped from 2 billion to 1.7 billion between 2014 and 2017, a closer look at the numbers reveals that many of these new accounts are not actively used and that credit, savings and resilience showed no progress during this period. Globally, at least 3 billion people remain financially excluded or underserved, with 30 percent – a large portion – being disproportionately young, underscoring the importance of getting financial inclusion right today for our future generation. These findings, among others, are discussed in Financial Inclusion Hype vs. Reality, a report from the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) that deconstructs the Findex data and draws attention to the need for the industry to go beyond access to drive increased usage and improved financial well-being. As access increasingly becomes a reality, a second generation of challenges emerges: to capitalize on the openings made possible through access to offer products and services that truly improve lives, reduce inequality and ultimately drive development.
As access to financial services increasingly becomes a reality, a second generation of challenges emerges: to offer products and services that truly improve lives, reduce inequality and ultimately drive development.
It is in this spirit that the Citi Foundation brings its support to the thought leadership initiatives CFI is pursuing in conjunction with its 10th anniversary this year, under the theme of Getting Inclusion Right. The ten essays presented in this series – in celebration of CFI’s ten years – showcase diverse views from across the financial inclusion sector and beyond on questions that must be addressed to ensure that financial services bring about tangible benefits for the financially excluded and underserved.
Starting with Garance Wattez-Richard of AXA, who reflects on inclusive insurance, we move into Elisabeth Rhyne’s discussion of the need for greater customer centricity in how providers design and deliver financial services. Tim Adams of the Institute of International Finance writes about why financial inclusion matters. The series also examines consumer issues through its exploration into the digital divide (Shameran Abed of BRAC) and we hear from innovative providers such as Buhle Goslar of Jumo on credit, and Mark Pickens of Visa on payments. We then look at the ecosystem that makes it all possible, with an overview from Chris Skinner of the Finanser and essays from Simone di Castri on regulation, Katharine Kemp of the University of New South Wales on data privacy and security, and Jonathan Whittle of Quona Capital on the role of investors.
Each of these writers is highly qualified to speak on their issues, and we are grateful that they have chosen to include their voices in the series. All the essayists have combined their own hopes and dreams for their work with their personal expertise, and the result is a comprehensive vision of “true North” for the sector during the next decade.
The Citi Foundation is delighted to support and recognize CFI’s 10-year track record in challenging and engaging the industry and in protecting and empowering low-income, marginalized consumers. As a longstanding partner of Accion, the Citi Foundation welcomed CFI’s 2008 launch and has since supported CFI’s efforts to bring stakeholders in financial inclusion together to measure progress and highlight future challenges. During its second decade, CFI has the credibility to continue serving as a focal point for integrated thought and action across the industry and to maintain a unique web of relationships with stakeholders from all segments of the sector.
Financial inclusion has gained new ground in recent years, thanks in part to the acceleration of the digital revolution and the growth of organizations dedicated to expanding financial inclusion. It is our goal with this essay series to seize this momentum in order to forge new relationships and take our efforts to the next level. As you read these essays, we hope that they will trigger clear thinking and convictions about next steps that set the stage for a new generation of breakthroughs in our collective efforts to advance financial inclusion.