With financial inclusion now established as an objective for most financial sector policymakers worldwide, the day-to-day responsibility for ensuring its achievement in a responsible, consumer-friendly, and evidence-based manner often falls to financial sector supervisors. Two challenges are particularly relevant: first, with an increased policy focus on financial inclusion, supervisors are often tasked with adapting reporting systems to collect granular data to monitor financial inclusion and inform policy. For example, how many customers are using each product? Are newly opened accounts active or dormant? What is the rate of growth of agent networks in rural areas?
Second, in a given market in order to improve competition and consumer choice, and ultimately financial inclusion. This means that non-bank FSPs such as mobile network operators (MNOs), fintech companies, financial cooperatives and microfinance institutions are increasingly brought under the supervisory mandate of supervisory authorities. This presents a significant challenge for financial sector supervisors who must cover a large and diverse set of FSPs with distinct risk profiles and capacities, stretching their already limited resources. Collecting and analyzing accurate, relevant, and timely information from these providers is at the heart of this supervisory challenge.
to address these challenges, an approach known to some as “suptech” (i.e. supervision technology). The National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) provides a case in point.
Also available in: Tiếng Việt
It’s nighttime and the streets are bustling in Vietnam’s cities and towns. Buoyed by years of strong growth, the country has a burgeoning middle class with purchasing power to sustain restaurants and cafes, full and open late into the night, busy retailers and a high penetration of mobile phones – more than one per person. The economy, however, continues to run on cash and a majority of adults still don’t have formal financial services such as a basic transaction account. Moving to a “non-cash” system is a priority for the government to increase efficiency, promote business and economic development and reduce poverty including in remote rural areas where traditional financial providers have difficulty reaching.
Since 2016 the State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank, has been partnering with the World Bank Group on a comprehensive approach to financial inclusion which will result in a national financial inclusion strategy. While still in development, several key elements of the strategy are clear: a focus on digital finance including shifts in government payments to digital products and platforms; providing financial services to rural and agricultural communities and ethnic minorities, where growth has lagged and poverty rates are above the national average; and strengthening consumer protection and financial education so that the next generation of consumers are prepared for a modern financial marketplace.
Financial technology, “fintech,” has been reshaping the financial services industry with the level and speed of innovation that’s simply fascinating.
A month ago, my colleagues and I attended the 5th Annual Lendit USA conference to check out about the latest innovations and thinking in this field and see how we can apply it to our work.
There is growing interest in trying to figure out this new industry and take advantage of the opportunity. Now billed as the largest Fintech industry meeting in the world, Lendit organizers started this event four years ago with about 200 participants. This year’s event attracted more than 5,000 people.
We work on various areas of financial inclusion and are interested in new ways that can help expand access to financial services to hard-to-reach populations and small businesses in developing countries.
We returned with a new appreciation for the magnitude of change that is coming, and how quickly it could occur – and already is in some instances. Some innovations will help developing countries leapfrog into this new tech era. This could have a significant – and potentially highly positive - impact on financial inclusion, and fundamentally change the nature of financial infrastructure.
However, these opportunities come with potential risks, such as those related to (un)fair lending practices related to unmonitored use and analysis of big data or increased systemic vulnerabilities due to threats to cybersecurity.
As World Bank staff working on financial inclusion, our days revolve around a critical question: what are the most promising ways to improve access to and usage of appropriate financial products for the underserved? A big part of our job is to track the wide range of experiences and learnings from around the world and incorporate them into our work advising policymakers and regulators. We thought it would be useful to share our current thinking, distilled into a list of the top eight approaches to accelerate financial inclusion. This list is from a policymaker perspective, and takes into account the fact that policymakers play a multi-faceted role in financial inclusion, balancing promotion, protection and stability.
First, two caveats. This is subjective list, drawn from our experience. We expect reasonable people to disagree with some of our choices and that’s OK – in fact, debate is welcome.
Second, country context plays a critical role in formulating appropriate approaches to financial inclusion. This list is meant as a general guide for what is impactful in most countries, most of the time.
4 unprecedented disruptions to the global financial system
Climate change, migration, correspondent banking and cybercrime are putting unprecedented and unforeseen pressures on global financial markets.
They aren’t just disrupting the global financial system, but also affect how we approach international development work.
Let’s examine each trend:
- “Greening the financial sector” is the new buzz term to finance a transition toward a climate-resilient economy and to help combat climate change. This topic is now getting a lot of attention from the G20 to the Financial Stability Board. The international community is trying to understand what this transition will imply: , and how efficiently the financial sector can allocate financial resources. What we know is that currently fossil fuel subsidies and a lack of carbon tax are hindering the market from shifting financial resources from brown to green.
- Globally, an estimated 65 million people are forcibly displaced. Migration, resettlement or displacement, of course, impact where and how to channel aid to those in need. But more importantly, as displaced people settle down -- no matter how temporary or long-term -- to become self-sufficient and thrive, they will need to establish new financial relations. This can be for simple transactions such as receiving aid through payment cards (as opposed to cash) or for sending remittances. Or it can be for something more complex as getting a loan to start a business.
- At the same time, as the global banking industry is tightening regulations, large banks are withdrawing from correspondent banking and shutting down commercially unsustainable business lines. This recent phenomenon can have a huge impact in some regions on SMEs and on money transfer operators, which largely handle remittances.
- . The focus on cybersecurity risk has increased along with the proliferation of internet and information technology. Fintech is transforming the financial industry -- by extending access to financial services to people and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) previously left out of the formal financial system – but is also raising many questions, including concerns about cybersecurity. The same technology advancements that are propelling fintech are also addressing cybersecurity risk. However, there is a need to develop an appropriate regulatory framework in combination with industry best practices. This framework is evolving and regulators are grappling with how and when to regulate.
Will cash and checks still exist 15 or 20 years from now given the increasing digitization of money? Is the smartphone our new bank? Will many people working in the financial sector industry lose their jobs due to growing use of technology, robots, algorithms, and online banking? Is financial technology (FinTech) the solution to providing financial services to the 2 billion people in the planet that still lack access to finance? Will digital currencies and other innovative FinTech products pose systemic risks in the future? What is the best approach to regulate FinTech companies?
Financial technology — or FinTech — is changing the financial sector on a global scale. It is also enabling the expansion of financial services to low-income families who have been unable to afford or access them. The possibilities and impact are vast, as is the potential to improve lives in developing countries.
The financial sector is beginning to operate differently; there are new ways to collect, process, and use information, which is the main currency in this sector. A completely new set of players is entering the business. All areas of finance — including payments and infrastructure, consumer and SME credit, and insurance — are thus changing.
a longer version of this blog post is available on the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative platform
With Google Trends data showing that searches for the word “blockchain” have exponentially increased, we may be entering the peak of the hype cycle for blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
But here’s the thing: the blockchain is a major breakthrough. That’s because its decentralized approach to verifying changes in important information addresses the centuries-old problem of trust, a social resource that is all too often in short supply, especially amid the current era’s rampant concerns over the security of valuable data. It turns out that fixing that can be a boon for financial inclusion and other basic services delivery, helping to achieve the global objectives laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sorting out hype from reality may depend on how well we identify where institutions that have until now played a role in mediating trust between people are falling short, especially in the key area of money. Deploying the blockchain in those settings to generate secure, decentralized trust could achieve great strides in inclusion and innovation.
What do we mean by decentralized trust? The concept is unfamiliar in part because its converse -- centralized trust – is something that we often take for granted, at least while it’s working. But if we look at the history of transactions since the early barter systems to modern-day digital money exchanges, we can see how different trust protocols for keeping track of our exchanges of value have evolved and how, in each case, centralizing trust within particular institutions has periodically caused problems.
As strategies for dealing with this challenge evolved and as the complexity and frequency of transactions grew, different trust bearers emerged. We went from relying on the memory and discretion of tribal leaders, to central governments issuing currencies in the form of precious metals, to commercial banks acting as trusted intermediaries and issuing their own bank notes, to central banks managing a hybrid system in which sovereign fiat banknotes circulate alongside a debt/credit form of money managed by regulated banks and internal ledgers.
Since more than 50% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) worldwide lack adequate access to credit, the international community is proposing reforms that will help countries strengthen their financial infrastructure and make it easier for SMEs to borrow funds needed to operate and expand.