In countries with highest "no-account" rates, almost 40% of the population face financial exclusion
>> More information about WSBI-ESBG efforts on financial inclusion
BRUSSELS, 5 April 2016 – More than 37 million adult EU citizens still lack access to formal financial services, with room for Europe's savings and retail banks to close the gap.
An analysis by savings and retail banking trade association WSBI, which looks at "banked" adults according to the World Bank Findex and population numbers from the World Factbook, shows that 8.6 percent of Europe's population remain financially excluded. Romania suffers the highest "no-account" rate at 39.2%, while neighbour Bulgaria faces the second highest financial exclusion rate at 37%. Visegrad countries Slovakia (22,8%), Hungary (27,7%) and Poland (both with 22,1%) follow.
Only two EU Member States, Denmark and Finland, have 100% of the population fully included in the financial system. Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany are not far off, completing the top five countries. The trio has more than 99% of their countrymen participating in the banking mainstream.
Reacting to the findings, WSBI-ESBG Managing Director Chris De Noose, said: "At first glance it's startling that a whole swath of EU citizens have not yet plugged into their local banks. Data and first-hand knowledge point to a host of factors that account for this. Those living in at the poverty level is one factor, but other barriers impede take up too, such as cost, trust, and physical accessibility."
WSBI was able to gather a knowledge base on the financial inclusion challenge in Europe and worldwide through its programme Working with savings bank in order to double the number of savings accounts in the hands of the poor, carried out from 2008 to 2015.
WSBI and its members, which includes those from more than two dozen countries in Europe through sister association ESBG, announced its aim to reach 1.7 billion customers worldwide and 400 million new transaction accounts by the end of 2020, based on the current membership. This numeric commitment reinforces WSBI's engagement with its Account for Everyone goal announced by the trade body in 2012, which it re-endorsed earlier in 2015 at the World Bank spring meetings. As at year-end 2014, members served a baseline total of 1.3 billion customers, which includes providing accounts for the poor worldwide.
"Promoting financial inclusion forms part of the DNA of our members, which pride themselves on being close to customer. Our locally-based model provides retail banking products and services to individuals, households, small and medium-sized businesses and local authorities," De Noose states. He added that WSBI members will continue striving to improve financial inclusion in the EU and other parts of the world, as "formal financial services can help people to protect their earnings, participate in economic activities, better manage their farms and small businesses, and have access to social welfare."
Table: Financial inclusion in EU Member States
(Sources: CIA World Factbook, Global Findex)