A wrap up of the 25th World Congress of Savings and Retail Banks
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BRUSSELS, 29 November 2018 – This year's WSBI World Congress of Savings and Retail Banks held on 15-16 November in New Delhi opened attendees' eyes to sustainable retail banking and how locally focused banks can make globalisation inclusive for all.
An inaugural speech by Shri Arun Jaitley, Honourable Union Finance Minister, Government of India gave a first-hand account of the need for economic development at regional level to help weather the impact of global economic forces in people's daily lives. He gave us food for thought when exploring the challenges faced by savings and retail banks around the world and how those institutions can better serve communities. His words were complemented by State Bank of India Chairman Shri Rajnish Kumar, NABARD Chairman Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, along with Shri Rajiv Kumar, Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. They added further insight into how WSBI member banks can help aspiring countries like India to grow in a sustainable, inclusive way.
India's capital was the setting to look at our recent achievements too. Heinrich Haasis provided a summary of achievements made during his six-year WSBI presidency. Success took on many forms under his helm, including new members, a focus on innovation and digitisation, knowledge exchange and greater efforts towards policy advocacy with international bodies like G20 and the Basel Committee. WSBI also made inroads toward the WSBI pledge to provide an account for everybody, outlined in a 2012 WSBI declaration in Marrakesh. WSBI members inched closer to its World Bank Universal Financial Access 2020 commitment. Since signing on in 2015, they have added 340 million accounts for 234 million people into the formal financial system.
It was an honour that morning for me as WSBI President to give my acceptance speech as incoming WSBI president and hearing from fellow Spaniard Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and NATO Secretary General. His address provided a lens as to the complexity of the global economic and political world we live in, and the complex solutions needed.
We were especially impressed by Day 1 panel sessions, which tackled three areas. The first, titled “Globalisation: the promise of a golden dawn or dystopia in the making?", examined how WSBI members, as financial institutions that are focused on their local community, could bring the benefits of globalisation to the local level by acting as an interface that connects these communities to global perspectives and global growth opportunities. The second session, “Two worlds no longer apart – rural and local development for growth in harmony", looked at how savings and retail banks take the best globalisation and digitisation to ensure their profitability while at the same time creating benefits for people and the planet. The third session focused on the theme “Digitisation as a tool for financial inclusion and customer proximity." All three sessions gave great insight into the complexity of challenge to last-mile banking and economic development and how innovation can help address the gauntlet faced by savings and retail banks to widen financial and economic inclusion in village, town and metropolis alike.
Day 2 went further into the globalisation and digitisation challenge. It featured privacy activist Max Schrems, founder of noyb – the European Center for Digital Rights – giving a well-received talk on what happens to personal data and how it is used by banks, governments and businesses alike. French National Federation of Savings Banks (FNCE) President Jean Arondel shared with us how French savings banks provide an example of the close link between regionally focused banks and local communities to address strategic areas like financial education. Keshav Rao of SWIFT Asia Pacific delved into how banks are fortresses against cybercrime while Naoyuki Yoshino from the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) gave his thoughts on the conference theme and how it relates to Japanese postal banks. All four presenters gave real-world examples that struck a chord.
The final panel under the conference theme brought on stage leaders from German, Indian, Swedish Mexican and Indonesian savings and retail banks and organisations. The panel tackled how banks remain keystones of local economies and help make communities benefit as much as possible from the opportunities globalisation presents. Approaches may vary in regions, but the soul of locally focused banking remains unchanged: empower people, strengthen communities.
WSBI stated before 300 attendees in the Indian capital a pledge to help bridge the socio-economic inequality gap among people around the globe. Outlined in the WSBI New Delhi Declaration, 104 association members from some 80 countries affirm that aspire to include the maximum number of people into the formal economy and financial system. Agreed a few days prior during WSBI statutory meetings, the two-page declaration outlines at trio of public policy areas to help savings and retail banks achieve their aim.
The takeaway from the Congress is that savings and retail banks are ideally placed to help calls from society to tackle the need for economic growth – no matter where. That means economic growth that is sustainable, deep-rooted and widespread, which generates inclusive economic and social development, not just in big cities but also in sometimes hard-to-reach rural areas. To do this, policymakers need to understand us even better, which requires greater efforts toward being more visible in the eyes of international organisations and regulatory bodies.
We see a bit upside in financial education going forward too, which is a pathway to greater financial inclusion for people of all walks of life. A strong association needs a strong membership, so we look to find ways to better retain members while expanding our membership with banks and associations that share our ethos: retail, regional and responsible.
WSBI thanks attendees for joining us for the 25th Savings and Retail Banking World Congress. We hope that it gave those in attendence added insight and inspiration to support and build upon our unique banking model. To help in that journey, we provide at www.wsbi-esbg.org/Events/WorldCongress_2018 the speeches, presentations and news releases from the two-day event. In addition, look out for a special edition of WSBI-ESBG News & Views magazine that will highlight this year's Congress.