Updated: March 2020
Financial inclusion means giving individuals and businesses access to useful and affordable financial products that meet their needs in the fields of payments, savings, credit and insurance. Getting access to financial services facilitates the daily lives of households and SMEs and helps them to foresee long-term goals and unexpected emergencies.
Indeed, it becomes easier to invest in education and in health when you do not have to keep cash stashed away at home. Also, as soon as formerly unbanked people have a basic bank account, they are more likely to use other financial services such as credit and insurance. This opens new opportunities to improve their lives on the longer term.
Since their creation, savings and retail banks have always focused on providing financial services to as many people as possible. Our products are straightforward and affordable. Despite the development of digital channels, we remain committed to a physical branch network, so that we make it as easy as possible for all of our clients to do transactions and obtain advice.
However, the work is far from being finished.
In Europe, where the ESBG members are active, our focus lies mainly on specific groups who are at risk of being excluded from the formal financial system. We offer microcredit and other specific products, we also offer tailored financial advice and coaching.
On the other continents, the first step in financial inclusion is often bringing the bank and the clients together. Our members' branch network has a very low threshold, but a challenging geography makes it difficult for clients to go to the branch. Financial technology via mobile telephone networks has given an enormous boost to the inclusion of formerly unbanked people. Work is ongoing to adapt the product features to the specific needs of this segment. Indeed: take-up of financial services requires affordable and sustainable products that allow for low deposits and frequent transactions. Considerable efforts are also being made to increase the financial literacy of the citizens.
Austria: Giving people a second chance with the "Zweite Bank", a pun on the meaning of Austria's biggest savings bank “Erste Bank", or "first bank".
France: "Parcours confiance", a microfinance programme managed by the French savings banks.
Germany: "Geld und Haushalt", financial advice and budget management for all.
Spain: "Microbank", microfinance by one of Spain's largest retail banks.
Kenya: Post Bank developed the "Bank in a Bag" project. Staff are equipped with a backpack that contains a laptop and a router. With that technology, they are able to open an account anywhere, in homes, at colleges, at the market. In a sense, "Bank in a Bag" is a mobile branch.
Tanzania: TPB Bank has developed a series of savings accounts that are specifically designed to meet the needs of savings groups, a very popular way of saving in the country.
El Salvador: WSBI member Fedecrédito has partnered with a chain of supermarkets to offer basic financial services to shoppers. This has increased dramatically the outreach of the institution.
Thailand: WSBI member Government Savings Bank has created a virtual "school bank", specially designed for school children. This allows the children to learn basic financial concepts such as saving money, in a modern and digital environment.