Access to better technology for (Supervisory) Reporting

On 18 February 2022, the four European banking associations (EACB, EAPB, EBF and ESBG) co-hosted the “Access to better technology for (Supervisory) Reporting” workshop that brought together the entire European banking industry, the European Banking Authority and the international RegTech community to openly exchange views and learn from each other on how RegTech solutions could help banks reduce their reporting costs and what are the hurdles to clear along the way.

300 participants across Europe participated in this half-day, targeted workshop. The presentations delivered by the banking industry clearly revealed the many challenges and complexities the industry has been facing for about 15 years due to the flood of additional data reporting requirements to banks. Data has never been as important as it is now with regulatory reporting having shifted from a simple administrative task in the past to a strategic objective high in the agenda of banks and a steering tool, with supervisors placing increasing focus on data quality. The current situation is the result of a layering of successive regulations, by different authorities at national and EU level, with the added complexities of different definitions and shorter delivery times demanding substantial investment by banks in systems, processes, and specialized staff. Banks have been mastering these challenges very well, generally speaking, but there is always room to become even more efficient.

While there are existing cases where banks are already benefitting from the use of technology either from in-house solutions or by creating a shared utility as result of a joint venture or other forms of pooling of resources by a number of banking groups in a country, the discussion revealed there is still ample room to explore and lot of work ahead to benefit from technology at a large scale.

A dedicated panel composed by RegTechs based across Europe confirmed that technology is available or is being developed to support banks with a wide range of services offering from end-to-end to targeted solutions. RegTechs also confirmed complexity is the most challenging aspect in the current reporting environment identifying standardization, infrastructure, and automation as tools to decrease the complexity.

The different ways regulatory reporting is done in Europe also adds complexity. Creating a more functional and interconnected ecosystem is key to start moving towards a much-needed standardization where RegTechs can play a key role. Replying to questions raised by the banking industry, RegTechs stressed that technology should be seen as innovation that could help banks reach beyond the 15-24% cost reduction as estimated by an EBA study last year, rather than a black box that brings its own complexity. RegTechs are also trying to remove barriers by intensively promoting their services for which forums like the workshop organized by the trade banking associations was an ideal setting to bridge the gaps between RegTech and the banking industry.

With a forward-looking perspective, the EBA provided an overview of how the different recently launched initiatives such as the Integrated Reporting System and the Commission’s supervisory data strategy aim to shape the future of supervisory reporting. The challenge is big, but the benefits are worth. The banking industry, RegTech community and supervisory authority agreed events like the workshop are key to foster collaboration and they will stay in close contact.

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Joint declaration on remote work and new technologies

On 7 December 2021, the European Banking Social Partners signed a Joint Declaration on Remote Work and New Technologies. The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the constantly increasing use of digitalised systems and processes led the Social Partners to reassess and appropriately update our approach to remote work in the European Banking sector.

In adaptable pattern of remote work, which allows for both higher productivity and an improved work-life balance, is a key aspect of the current and future ways of working. Therefore, UNI Europa Finance together with the EBF’s Banking Committee for European Social Affairs (EBF-BCESA), the European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) and the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB), worked together to ensure that employees’ and employers’ interests are safeguarded in these continuously changing working environments.

UNI Europa Finance President Michael Budolfsen said: “With remote work increasing at a rapid pace during Covid and beyond, it is opportune for the European Social Partners to come together to ensure this new way of working will stimulate a good work-life balance and not have a negative impact on the sector and its workers”.

UNI Europa Finance Director Maureen Hick added: “UNI Europa Finance welcomes the signing of this Joint Declaration and the commitment made today that remote work will not lead to any significant changes to bank employees’ rights and conditions and should be a topic of collective bargaining at all levels”.

Jens Thau, Chairman of EBF-BCESA, pointed out: “Banks and its employees have a strong track record of embracing new developments and putting them to work for their clients. The new Joint Declaration underscores the social partners’ commitment to responsibly shape this process of transformation.”

Michael Kammas, Vice-Chairman of EBF-BCESA highlighted: “The expertise of the Social Partners is pivotal when it comes to address new ways of working. This new Joint Declaration not only comes in the most appropriate time due to the pandemic and the continuous technological advancement, but it also shows the Social Partners’ ability to work together and agree on common approach encompassing all the significant aspects of Remote Work to ensure banks’ competitiveness and adaptability to the digitalized world of work.”

Peter Simon, Managing Director said for ESBG: “The Social Partners continuously strive for stable working conditions in accordance with the greater working situation. The Covid-19 crisis has escalated the need to establish good teleworking practices and adapt many roles to remote work. This Joint Declaration strengthens our commitment to employees to provide a secure environment”.

Nina Schindler, CEO of EACB explained: “The Social Partners’ agreement on the Joint Declaration on Remote Work is an effective and timely response to changes in working conditions. By signing this Joint Declaration, we demonstrate as the EACB our intent to safeguard the interests of European co-operative banks’ employees.”

The Social Partners have always proactively engaged with the effects of digitalisation. This new Joint Declaration builds on our previous commitments on Telework (2017) and on the Impact of Digitalisation on Employment (2018) by focusing on remote work as a specific type of adaptation to the way of working in the digitalised era. Understanding, shaping and keeping up with technological developments are very much at the heart of the European Social Partners’ approach in order to contribute to a strong and resilient banking industry.

To this end, the Social Partners have agreed to a common understanding regarding key aspects of remote work. These include collective trade union rights, health and safety, work-life balance, working hours and the right to disconnect, digital rights, resource and equipment costs, and access to training and career development.

This Joint Declaration on Remote Work and New Technologies is another significant achievement for the European Banking Social Partners, showing our continued commitment to engage together in current issues of common interest and adding our unique knowledge and contribution to the general debate on digitalisation.

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On the European Commission's Artificial Intelligence Act

The Commission aims to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. If we share this idea on the principle, it should be recognised that this is a risky bet.

The European Commission published a proposal for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act at the end of April. In parallel, it has set up a public consultation for stakeholders to provide feedback on the draft text, which ended on 6 August.

AI technology has only slowly began arriving on the market and as applications become more sophisticated, they will likely often become very unpredictable in their development. To ensure legal certainty, a level playing field and no obstacles to innovation, a clear definition of artificial intelligence is needed. This would cover the Commission work, as well as national data protection authorities, the Council of Europe initiative, and the OECD framework on classifying AI systems. ESBG members very much welcome the proposed technology-neutral and future-proof definition of AI, and the Commission’s risk-based approach to enable a proportionate regulation.

The Commission aims to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. If we of course share this idea on the principle, it should be recognised that this is a risky bet. Indeed, if European values are not ultimately adopted on an international scale, non-European solutions are potentially more efficient because they have been developed in less restrictive regulatory environments and could compete with European solutions.

With regards to the acceptance of data usage, members would like to use real datasets instead of the Commission proposed ‘synthetic’ datasets. These would mimic real life situations and allow AI training in a realistic setting, without the risk of second order bias (e.g., ethnicity indication based on living area or income).

We also believe that there should be a provision in the draft text to protect European AI developers and users at international level. AI does not discriminate against physical locations, and many different countries across the world have different interpretations of copyright and liability when it comes to AI applications.

Finally, we call for clarity on the scope of the text when it comes to biometric identification of natural persons. It is not yet clear if financial services firms and their providers, who rely on biometric identification to onboard customers remotely (and comply with KYC – know your customer requirements) will be included in the scope of the full set of requirements in the AI regulation.

We support the Commission in its efforts to create a clear legal framework for artificial intelligence which does not inhibit innovation and at the same time provides security for all market participants. We are particularly pleased with the Commission’s philosophical approach to promoting “digitalisation with a human face”. We believe that trustworthy AI in cooperation with human expertise will be of great value to European society. We particularly emphasise the interaction between man and machine. We firmly believe that both humans and machines are irreplaceable. However, we must ensure that new regulation does not inadvertently cripple our markets, dampen innovation and opportunities.

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ESBG welcomes announcement of harmonised European Digital Identity

The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) welcomes the intention to remove fragmentation and to build a harmonised legal framework across Europe, recognising the role of Member States as providers of the European Digital Identity Wallet.

BRUSSELS, 15 June 2021 – ESBG welcomes the intention of the European Commission (EC) to end the current regulatory and technological fragmentation of electronic identification across EU Member States,  as announced on 3 June, with the creation of a regulatory framework for a European Digital Identity.

The proposed harmonisation would help correct some of the shortcomings of the current eIDAS Regulation, whose partial (only public services are included) and heterogeneous adoption by Member States resulted in a highly underutilised ecosystem in the Union, particularly for cross-border access to services.

“The ESBG and its members welcome the Commission’s proposal and believe that it can contribute to the further integration of the European Union. We look forward to the coming discussions in both Parliament and the Council”, said Andreas Widegren the Chair of the ESBG FinTech Regulation Committee and Swedbank’s Senior Manager.

ESBG also supports the EC’s aim to ensure that at least 80% of EU citizens get access to digital ID solutions by 2030. Today, only 59% of EU citizens have access to trusted and secure eID schemes across borders.

The new proposal not only extends the eIDAS but it also puts forward an ambitious, interoperable EU-wide scheme centered around Digital Identity Wallets, to be issued by Member States as providers of legal identity.

A key factor will be the involvement of the private sector in the creation of the Trust Scheme, in a “process for close and structured cooperation”, as referred in recital 36 of the Regulation proposed by the Commission.

ESBG calls for the specificities of the financial sector to be taken into account in this involvement. As relying parties, banks should be aware of the chain of trust in data sharing, including all the actors involved.

ESBG is also in close collaboration with the other European Credit Sector Associations, in the context of the Inter-ECSA eID Task Force, which brings together experts from 36 financial institutions with the goal of expressing a common position for the whole sector. ESBG, together with the ECSAs, stands ready to further engage on the strategic issue of digital identity with the Commission, EU co-legislators and a wide range of stakeholders both at European and national level.

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Digital tax: European Commission roadmap

​​​​​​​​​​​BRUSSELS 15 February 2021 – ESBG issued today comments on the European Commission's roadmap on the introduction of a digital levy.

In our opinion, it is most important that a precise distinction is made as to which companies are to be covered by the digital tax. Therefore, this differentiation should primarily be done based on the core business of a company and based on how the business is conducted. Secondly, any potential up-coming definition of digital activities might be used as a differentiation criterion. 

We are convinced that companies should be out of the scope of any digital levy if they have:

  • one or more branches with on-site sales personnel
  • ​face-to-face customer service and
  • whose core business is not based on the provision of digital services

Furthermore, it is completely unclear on which tax base the digital tax should be levied. It makes a big difference whether an income tax or a transfer tax is designed. At this point in time, without any draft legislative texts, the intention of the EU Commission cannot be assessed at all. We believe that a design based on income tax and a link to income taxable revenues make no sense. Because the income tax burden of companies exclusively active in digital business transactions is generally very low due to the lack of, and moreover, controversial definitions of a company’s presence, its permanent establishment.

Furthermore, the determination of the income tax base is completely different depending on the Member State where the companies have to be charged. Beyond that, in the case of internationally active companies the issue around the permanent establishment would be almost impossible to manage. Thus, it can be assumed that all Member States involved would claim a share of the tax revenue for themselves (see also below).

Similarly, after years of efforts to establish a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), a “profit sharing method” is, in our opinion, doomed to fail. Therefore, a “top-up” on the current corporate income tax” has to be ruled out. A transfer tax would be conceivable, which would ultimately be linked to the turnover within the EU (and the location of the recipient of the service, regardless of whether it is B-2-B or B-2-C) and would have to be paid in a simple procedure, if possible at source by way of deduction – which would be the most efficient way – or by way of assessment by the digital company providing the service. The registration obligation of “platforms” for VAT purposes within the framework of the “e-commerce package” also goes in this direction.​

About ESBG (European Savings and Retail Banking Group)

The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) represents the locally focused European banking sector, helping savings and retail banks in 21 European countries strengthen their unique approach that focuses on providing service to local communities and boosting SMEs. An advocate for a proportionate approach to banking rules, ESBG unites at EU level some 885 banks, which together employ 656,000 people driven to innovate at 48,900 outlets. ESBG members have total assets of €5.3 trillion, provide €1 trillion in corporate loans, including to SMEs, and serve 150 million Europeans seeking retail banking services. ESBG members commit to further unleash the promise of sustainable, responsible 21st-century banking. Learn more at www.wsbi-esbg.org.

European Savings and Retail Banking Group – aisbl

Rue Marie-Thérèse, 11
B-1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 211 11 11
Fax : +32 2 211 11 99

info@wsbi-esbg.org ■ www.wsbi-esbg.org

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ESBG responds to ECB public consultation on digital euro

BRUSSELS, 13 January 2021 – ESBG submitted its response to the European Central Bank (ECB) public consultation on a digital euro.

The association representing some 900 savings and retail banks welcomed the opportunity to provide its views on the possible future issuance of a digital euro but at the same time highlighted the need for further information on key aspects of the project, such as the main purpose of a digital euro, its technical implementation and functionalities, the role for savings and retail banks and other Payment Service Providers, who would perform compliance checks, as well as the interplay with SCT Inst, just to name a few. The current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach cannot be successful in the long run. In this respect, in its response, ESBG invited the ECB to publish a second report that could provide more concrete information on how a digital euro would work, and to run a second public consultation before deciding to proceed with an implementing phase.

The ESBG response to the consultation addresses the following key themes:

Impact on financial stability

Any new form of currency brings about fundamental challenges and the introduction of a digital euro could have severe impact on the entire functioning of the EU economy. Going forward, decisions need to be taken carefully and with a clear view on the main objectives. A digital euro could jeopardize financial and prudential balances of banks, by weighing on their solvency and profitability, and by increasing their risks and fostering more severe bank runs. In times of financial distress, the demand for a digital euro could increase dramatically, since it would constitute a risk-free asset. This could spur the crisis and even incentivise central bank runs. All these elements may threaten financial stability, to the detriment of customers and citizens. It follows that a digital euro must be designed as a means of payment only, thus avoiding its use as an investment tool. To do so, ESBG and its members recommend the use of limits to holding and a no remuneration policy.

Customer and data protection

A digital euro should not only be easy to use, but also easy to understand. Proper safeguards should be in place to ensure all players are protected. For instance, if offline transactions are implemented, there is the risk of loss of only locally stored digital euro in case the device used for storage is lost or damaged. Most importantly, ESBG stressed that under no circumstances a digital euro should undermine the trust in existing means of payments. Privacy should be safeguarded in any case, and some restrictions or enhanced consent requirements may be necessary to protect consumers from certain business models that may use data on transactions to target ads or offers.

Building on the existing payments infrastructures

Europe is at the forefront of innovation for retail payments, and especially banks and payments institutions, together with the Eurosystem and National Central Banks (NCBs), provide European citizens with the most efficient payments systems available, including via digital means. ESBG believes that allowing banks to maintain their role of intermediaries and distributors of money to the public – as this is currently the case with cash – by building on existing infrastructure will ensure a high level of consumer protection, user experience and trust, as well as financial stability. At the same time, this will ensure the efficiency of the retail payment system and transformation mechanism are preserved. Instead of building a brand-new payment system, the association recommends a digital euro be integrated in the current payment system. Finally, to ensure a level playing field, it is crucial to ensure the principle “same functionalities, same liabilities, same rules”.

ESBG and its member banks stand ready to further engage with the ECB on these strategic issues in the weeks and months to come.

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Irrevocable Payment Commitments

BRUSSELS, 11 December 2020 – ESBG recently called on EU authorities to leverage the flexibility inscribed in the current regulatory framework by increasing the share of irrevocable payment commitments (IPC) to 30% of SRF ex-ante contributions for 2021.

Outlined in a letter sent on 24 November to the Single Resolution Board (SRB) and to the European Commission, ESBG noted that while the IPC is set now at 15%, increasing the share of the commitments would provide some flexibility to banks and would allow them to further support the economy in the Covid-19 outbreak context.

ESBG also noted that it is also essential that IPC amounts remain non-deductible from CET1 to allow this measure to be fully effective and in line with level 1 texts.

IPC are defined as an obligation on the part of credit institutions to pay their contributions in the future through a contract signed between the financial arrangement and an institution that opts for the IPC. This is a perpetual and irrevocable obligation secured by low-risks asset as collateral, such as cash, which should be unencumbered and earmarked for exclusive use by the receiving authority.

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​​​​Digital banking: unleash further innovation​

ESBG fully supports regulatory initiatives aimed at fostering the uptake of nascent technologies and business models in Europe. ESBG encourages EU regulators to prioritise the following action points:

  • Support for codes of conduct for all market participants on applications of new technologies in the financial sector
  • Enhancing legal clarity through guidance at EU level for technologies and/or use cases
  • Strengthening of existing European standardisation and specifications initiatives (e.g. in payments or in API developments)
  • Supporting further initiatives like the European Institute of Innovation and Technology partner network that helps business and entrepreneurs be at the frontier of digital innovation by providing them with technology, talent and growth support
  • Setting up and funding expert groups to define and implement nascent technology pilots.
  • Funding experimentation on certain applications of new technologies in finance at European level to encourage the emergence of EU-wide businesses that would be able to compete with comparably sized peers from other jurisdictions.
  • Cross-border coordination within the EU is fundamental to promote the scale-up of technological innovation and to prevent an unlevel playing field and regulatory arbitrage. Fragmentation (e.g. differences in regulatory requirement) is already limiting the potential of technological developments, which also affects the overall competitiveness of the EU.
  • Establishing a framework for consent management to ensure that consumers have the correct tools to share and control their personal data.

Identified Concerns

​New technologies are transforming financial services and the way they are accessed by consumers; this digital transformation is shaping the future of banking. ESBG believes that it is difficult to encourage innovation through regulation and that digitalisation efforts need to be market-driven, where the right conditions are set to ensure that European companies can become global champions, meeting the highest requirements for consumer protection and financial stability. ​

At the same time, ESBG is supportive of technology-neutral legislation that creates a level playing field and allows for offering digital services under sustainable business models that are beneficial to all stakeholders, and that will hence stimulate the digital transition.

The main obstacles to fully reaping the opportunities of innovative technologies in the European financial sector, as identified by ESBG, are the following:

  • Regulatory and supervisory fragmentation. To mitigate fragmentation, there is need for harmonisation of the European regulatory and supervisory framework, particularly in the process of electronic identification. In fact, the identification requirements of European consumers in digital channels differ vastly between member states, especially due to the different interpretation, implementation and applications of, for instance, AML-requirements and PSD2 by both legislators and supervisors. This has created a fragmented and ineffective market environment across the EU. Something that hinders European citizens and corporations. However, when harmonizing identification requirements, care must be taken not to weaken money laundering and fraud prevention.​
  • Unlevel playing field. Currently there are differences in legal requirements between established financial institutions and new market entrants providing the same or similar services. The banking sector is mandated to operate with specific requirements which other market players are able to bypass as they avoid a banking licence – although they provide the same services. Significant risks are introduced in the financial ecosystem by the ability of FinTech companies to operate in a grey area, performing activities that need to be properly supervised. The principle of equal requirements for equal activities must apply.​
  • The regulatory link between privacy, data protection, and innovation is not always optimally balanced: the financial sector fully supports regulatory and supervisory authorities in relation to the approval and implementation of rules on privacy and data protection. However, this should not restrict the industry innovation capacity. The complex legal framework of consent management between PSD2 and GDPR might constitute an obstacle. If public authorities aim at supporting innovation from companies that hold (personal data of) thousands of clients, there needs to be a common ground on the terms of where innovation can be undertaken.

Concerning the relation between regulated entities and supervisors, ESBG has observed the following challenges:

  • New digital players are born global, where their market reach goes beyond the mandate of EU financial authorities. In addition, they sometimes do not belong to a regulated industry, making their supervision complex.​
  • Supervisors lack the necessary resources and competences to implement new supervising processes, which include many technical questions and new products and services. There is also a lack of coordination between supervisors both within and across member states.
  • Regulators and supervisors therefore need to move closer to the industry, taking instead a collaborative approach.
  • All providers should be subject to the existing regulatory framework for financial services.
    Regulation shall adapt to the specific service (payments, investment advice, etc.) and not the service provider (start-up, scale-up or incumbent).

Why Policymakers Should Act​​

The EU lags behind other jurisdictions in terms of capacity and competitiveness to innovate, scale-up and compete with non-European players. European banks oftentimes face difficulties in accessing platforms and technical interfaces of BigTech companies, which are increasingly entering the financial sector. ​​​

To avoid giving a competitive advantage to non-EU companies, European regulators should properly balance consumer interest when assessing the risks of both banks and BigTech companies. Even though this also depends on financial and economic factors, ESBG believes that a less rigid and time-consuming regulatory framework could help foster the competitiveness of European firms globally.

In order to ensure a future-proof regulatory framework that does not hamper innovation, consumer protection and financial stability, the general principle of “same activity and same risks should comply same rules and supervision”, as well as the broad principle of technology neutrality, need to be respected. The EU lags behind other jurisdictions in terms of capacity and competitiveness to innovate, scale up and compete with non-European players. European banks oftentimes face difficulties in accessing platforms and technical interfaces of BigTech companies, which are increasingly entering the financial sector. ​​

Furthermore, Europe is currently facing an educational gap due to a lack of digital skills, both in terms of consumer awareness and lack of qualified workforce; this might limit the opportunities linked to harnessing the potential of technology. We strongly recommend promoting the digital literacy of citizens. Important skills for dealing with and understanding digitization and a consantly changing environment must be taught at school and beyond.

Background

​The financial sector has historically been subject to high regulatory and supervisory requirements. Such requirements have had an overall positive impact on society and have helped the financial sector show resilience in response to the recent COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic crisis has also triggered an increase in customer demand for digital financial services, making regulatory frameworks for digitalisation even more important.

ESBG submitted a response to the European Commission consultation on digital finance in June 2020, aimed at seeking views on the possible measures needed to further enable innovative digital financial services in the EU. On 24 September 2020, the European Commission adopted a Digital Finance Package, consisting of a Digital Finance Strategy, a Retail Payments Strategy, legislative proposals for an EU regulatory framework on crypto-assets, and proposals for an EU regulatory framework on digital operational resilience. Non-European BigTech companies can also penetrate the​ European market via massive investment policies, exploiting the weakness of European positions and the absence of a major European player. By becoming digital platforms where financial products and services are distributed, acquired, advertised, etc., BigTech companies can play a significant role in the intermediation of financial products and services, without having to comply with financial regulation and rules governing incumbent financial institutions. This situation creates an imbalance in the level-playing field necessary to guaranteeing the “same activity creating the same risks should be regulated in the same way” principle.​​​

BigTech companies are already present in the market for multiple financial products and services (e.g. payments, provision of consumer and SMEs credit), and that presence is expected to continue growing. Customer data is at the heart of their business model: ​​

  • ​​c​​ustomisation and anticipation of needs are at the heart of the success of BigTech companies: for this reason, their access to granular customer data and mastery of AI is key;​Access to banking APIs is strategic;
  • many BigTech companies have the necessary authorisations to exploit the opportunities opened up by the PSD2.

Non-European BigTech companies can also penetrate the​ European market via massive investment policies, exploiting the weakness of European positions and the absence of a major European player. By becoming digital platforms where financial products and services are distributed, acquired, advertised, etc., BigTech companies can play a significant role in the intermediation of financial products and services, without having to comply with financial regulation and rules governing incumbent financial institutions. This situation creates an imbalance in the level-playing field necessary to guaranteeing the “same activity creating the same risks should be regulated in the same way” principle.​​​

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Scale2Save, Barid Cash sign MoU

Scale2Save, Barid Cash sign MoU

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

BRUSSELS, 7 May 2020 – WSBI and payment institution Barid Cash signed recently a memorandum of understanding to conduct research to better meet the needs of Moroccan informal savings groups.

The two-part study will include quantitative and qualitative research to understand the concept of ​“Daret” – a traditional way for people in Morocco to organise and form an informal savings groups, also called “tontine” in other parts of French-speaking Africa. Data collected assess Daret’s potential within the country’s population size, based on gender and age segments, as well as appetite for a digital version of Daret proposed by  a financial service provider.

Barid Cash Managing Director M. Benanane said: “We need to understand better and analyse more carefully the people who use traditional “Daret”. We want to find out what drives them, detect specific preferences and behaviours among socio-professional categories.” 

Tracking awareness levels, attitudes

Researchers will seek to learn about the awareness levels and attitudes of Moroccans, especially towards savings as well as how people use savings for moments in their lives, such as daily needs like food, medicine and school fees.

Barid Cash will conduct qualitative fieldwork via focus groups and interviews, sampling from a population that ranges in age from 18 to 70 with monthly revenue of DH 2000 to 20,000 (~US$200 to 2,000). More specifically five main groups will form the sample group, including those living in both large cities and rural areas and places. They include: Informal savings groups, low-income and irregular-income, banked and unbanked populations, including women; students; small-scale traders and craftsmen, small show owners and self-employed entrepreneurs.

A report detailing the study results expected in 2020 will feed into strategic and operational decision-making by Barid Cash in its quest to launch a “Daret” digitalisation project.

Digitising Daret 

Digitising Daret processes means tapping into the existing mobile payment ecosystem and creating a new offering for an unexplored market at national level. Women and young people could gain much from digitising this traditional, community-based form of savings. Opening a basic account to access a digital tontine platform will thereby provide a gateway to a whole array of financial services beyond savings.

Weselina Angelow, programme director for WSBI’s Scale2Save, concluded: “Customer-oriented market research efforts like this help us understand better aspects of Daret. Digitising it could bring new life into the tradition-rich savings group format and allows us to drive further use of this saving method to get more people to save, and beyond.

Notes to editors:

About Scale2Save:

Scale2Save is a partnership between WSBI and Mastercard Foundation to establish the viability of small-scale savings in six African countries. The six-year programme aims for 1 million more people banked in those countries through projects using innovative models. Learn more about Scale2Save online and @Scale2Save on Twitter.

About Barid Cash: 

Barid Cash is a subsidiary of Al Barid Bank, Barid al-Maghrib group, created in 2014 to offer Moroccans a new local service, becoming a benchmark in terms of national and international money transfer and cash services. Its status subsequently progressed towards financial activity thanks to obtaining in 2018 the licence of Bank Al Maghrib for a Payment Institution. Barid Cash then embarked, like its parent company, on a dynamic of financial inclusion, by joining the national mobile payment project “PMN”. Barid Cash is now riding the technology wave and offers an alternative account opening offer to the traditional offer based on fundamentals which makes it more accessible and flexible as well as new means of payment (mobile payment via M- Wallet Barid Pay, Fissa3 electronic payment card) with the novelty of merchant payment allowing the latter to diversify its means of payment acceptance thus creating an ecosystem of M-payment. Learn more about Barid Cash at www.baridcash.ma

​About WSBI:

The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) represents the interests of 6,760 savings and retail banks globally, with total assets of $16 trillion and serving some 1.7 billion customers in nearly 80 countries (as of 2018). Founded in 1924, the institute focuses on international regulatory issues that affect the savings and retail banking industry. WSBI supports the achievement of sustainable, inclusive, balanced growth and job creation, whether in industrialised or less developed countries. Learn more at www.wsbi-esbg.org.

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COFINA Senegal signs MoU with WSBI

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

BRUSSELS, 5 September 2018 – More than 50,000 low-income Senegalese women will gain access to basic financial services like savings thanks to a new tech-savvy project by COFINA Senegal and WSBI as part of the Mastercard Foundation-funded programme Scale2Save to help small-scale savings work​.

Outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations, African financing company COFINA will partner with MaTontine, a fintech enterprise focused on reducing poverty through the widespread adoption of digital financial services, targeting traditional savings groups in French-speaking Africa – commonly known as “tontine”.

COFINA Senegal Chief Executive Officer Amadou Boudia Gueye said: “The project will enable disadvantaged low-income segments of the population, especially women, to acquire a stable culture of saving and give them an easier access to lending and other services through the use of new technology.”

The project aims to conduct all the tontines’ financial transactions digitally via mobile phones through the MaTontine platform. In addition, COFINA will facilitate access to small loans – packaged as advances on earnings – and other financial services to the individual members of the traditional savings groups. By 2022, the project foresees women making up 90 per cent of the more than 48,000 active customers signed up. More than 24,000 small loans will be granted during that period and savings collected reaching US$429,000. ​​The project also aims to build up people’s mindset towards savings and provide a pathway to access small loans and beyond, including microinsurance.

Financial inclusion challenge in Senegal, especially for women

There is huge potential to widen inclusion in Senegal, home to some 15 million inhabitants. Just 15 percent of the population aged 15 years or older have an account at a financial institution, according to the latest FINDEX data. That figure is lower for women at 11 per cent in the same age bracket, a demographic that comprises some 5.5 million people and a literacy rate of 46.6 per cent versus 69.7 per cent for men. That will mean creative approaches through mobile accounts, which today has a market take up of only six per cent of the total 15+ population. Appetite for savings is high, with 59 per cent of that same segment saving money in some form. Only 6.6 per cent of whom squirrel it away at a bank or other deposit-taking financial institution.

WSBI Managing Director Chris De Noose said: “The project is important because it helps lower the financial inclusion barrier that women face thanks to COFINA’s gender-based approach. It will lift women’s lives in urban and rural areas living on less than US$5 dollars a day who face generally more exclusion than men.”

The pilot phase will begin immediately in two areas of the Dakar region.

Notes to editors:

​About COFINA

COFINA’s mission is to create added value for our partners and participate sustainably in the development of the African continent. Founded in 2014, COFINA Senegal has a network of seven branches, 40 Cash Points and 200 sub-agents. Its ambition is to expand nationwide. Its customer portfolio revolves around 47,407 customers made up of small- and medium-sized businesses, young people, women, private individuals and start-ups. In four years, COFINA Senegal has carved out a leading position in the Senegalese financial services market with a 15% share of the microfinance institution (MFI) market.

COFINA’s strategic priorities until 2022 are to strengthen human resources and technological capabilities; simplify our organisation to achieve efficiency; enhance close relationships with our customers and regulators; and double the customer portfolio (individuals) in Senegal to 100,000 customers.

About Groupe COFINA

Groupe COFINA comprises six microfinance institutions branded as Cofina Sénégal, Cofina Guinée, Crédit Solidaire du Gabon, Compagnie Africaine de Crédit en Côte d’Ivoire, Cofina Mali and Cofina Congo. This network aims to develop financial solutions to boost SMEs and entrepreneurs and do so in a secure way to nourish business projects by the middle-class population. Groupe COFINA is also specialised in meso-finance, with the goal of being the reference pan-African financial inclusion model and driving the continent’s sustainable development efforts with maximum social impact.

About WSBI, the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute

WSBI represents the interests of 6,000 savings and retail banks globally, with total assets of $15 trillion and serving some 1.3 billion customers in nearly 80 countries (as of 2016). WSBI focuses on international regulatory issues that affect the savings and retail banking industry. It supports the aims of the G20 in achieving sustainable, inclusive, and balanced growth, and job creation, whether in industrialised or less developed countries. WSBI favours an inclusive form of globalization that is just and fair, supporting international efforts to advance financial access and financial usage for everyone.​

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