The following piece is an updated version of a blogpost published on 3 November by WSBI on the Center for Financial Inclusion Blog.
BRUSSELS, 7 November 2017
For Financial Inclusion Week 2017, WSBI highlights ways that new partnerships and new products help its members make progress toward financial inclusion.
New partnerships and new products are helping WSBI members achieve our stated pledge to Universal Financial Access (UFA). Doing their part to help realize the “account for everyone” goal, members have provided us data through year-end 2016 that shows that we’re making progress. The numbers speak for themselves: 136 million new clients and 236 million new transaction accounts since the UFA benchmarks were set at the end of 2014.
WSBI members that harness new technologies have made real inroads. They have been able to more effectively offer affordable, quality products and services that meet the needs of underserved and unbanked people, allowing them to boost financial access and usage and attract new customers. In a nutshell, WSBI members’ approaches to financial inclusion include:
Integrating the unbanked at the start of financial inclusion journey
Extending banking networks to underserved areas
Digitizing savings mobilization and financial service to meet the changing needs of customers
Improving financial literacy, particularly among youth
LienViet Postbank (LVPB) Vietnam is top among the WSBI membership in Asia in openning new accounts, nearly doubling the level from 2014 to 2016. To do this, they took an innovative approach to integrate the unbanked at the start of financial inclusion journey.
ViViet (see image at right) is LVPB’s payment solution provides access to payment and banking services via mobile phones for customers in Vietnam. They went this route because only 22 per cent of Vietnamese have access to formal banking services in the country, but around 90 percent of adults there use mobile phones. The mobile phone subscription rate is 128 per cent. The wide gap between banking customers and telecommunication subscribers implies big potential for the ViViet e-wallet.
ViViet is tailored to the needs of the unbanked because it can grow with users as their financial journey expands. They may start with bill payment, then open a bank account, access a microloan, and so on. ViViet currently serves as a payment tool for services including utility bills, transportation, mobile phone cards and air-time top-ups. ViViet can also be used for payment of loans, insurance premiums, tuition fees and online purchases, as well as fund transfers between ViViet and external bank accounts.
Some 6 million smartphones are used in Sri Lanka. Given that figure, NSB sees the smartphone or computer device being easily converted into a virtual bank through its NSB i-Saver, which allows customers in Sri Lanka to deposit money in any NSB Bank account in a convenient and efficient manner via more than 16,000 touch points (see image at left) throughout the country, as a result of partnerships with the mobile network operator and other retailers. This expansion of service is expected to further instill the habit of savings among Sri Lankans, thus resulting in wealth creation and mobility of funds for investment.
El Salvador: agent banking opens up access
Similarly in El Salvador, Fede Puntos Vecinos (Fedecredito’s agent banking scheme) has widened access to financial services in underserved areas. To date, service stations have been placed in 196 of 262 municipalities in El Salvador—that means one service point for every 20 kilometers. As of December 2016, Fede Puntos Vecinos processed 5.4 million transactions valued at some US$195 million, with an average transaction amount of around US$35.
As one example, through the Fede Puntos Vecinos business model, mini-market owner Carlos Armando Barillas increased sales and broadened offerings at his initial store—opening a new bookshop section—and opened a brand new store in another city.
PostBank Uganda unveiled a goal-based mobile savings product called the PostBank Youthsave Solution to encourage youth to save more diligently (see image of event at left). This product aims to improve the financial inclusion of youth through educating them about saving money. It also aims to retain them as loyal customers and ultimately position PostBank as the preferred financial institution for young people. YouthSave was developed with support of the WSBI, which supported the research into youth and student behavior and gaps that affected the saving culture. The research confirmed that young people have access to and prefer digital platforms like mobile phones and the Internet.
The YouthSave account enables youth to access their accounts digitally, as well as learn how to save for multiple goals using a mobile phone application. Its functionality includes setting and tracking savings goals, setting start and end dates for savings goals, editing savings goals, checking the account balance, buying airtime, paying bills, and transferring money. This digitally-enhanced product is available to students and youth between 18 and 30 years old.
These challenges and questions make our work in financial inclusion even more pressing. If we address them well, we can expect more people joining into the financial mainstream.