When people trust digital means of payment people start going "cash-lite." That's why mobile money is spreading in a number of developing economies, and why 40 percent of Americans now typically carry less than $20 cash in their wallets.
For 100 years the world has been on a fairly consistent march towards more and more free enterprise, and deeper and more sharp edged caverns of capitalism. And for approximately 80 of those years, most of the developed world was not on a bad path.
A big obstacle is the closing of bank branches in small towns and low-income neighborhoods. "When the bank told us they were leaving in five weeks, it set off a small panic," said Kenneth Broome, the mayor of Utica, Miss.
The G20's focus in 2013-2014 will continue to include food security for the poorest families, providing financial services to rural poor who lack access to banks, and reducing the cost to immigrants sending remittances home to their families.
To think "a priori" about the likely market and business model characteristics will maximize the likelihood of success or, at least, make the challenges more explicit and therefore help manage expectations.
Three years ago I blogged "Is Financial Inclusion Imminent in India?" I have just returned from India after observing the progress India has made towards financial inclusion. Yes, there has been progress, but much remains to be done.
It's important when participating in this conversation to understand who the underbanked are. And alarmingly, according to the 2011 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, they are 1 in 5 households in the U.S. (20.1 percent).
A few things are clear: the marketplace is changing, the ranks of the underbanked are likely to grow, and alternatives to traditional banking relationships and products are playing a very significant role.
On a planet rapidly coming online through mobile technologies, there's an urgent need to develop financial empowerment. Today, leaders from the emerging payment and virtual currency industry announced a Committee for the Establishment of the Digital Asset Transfer Authority.
The Eminent Persons panel put forward twelve illustrative goals, ranging from 1) End Poverty to 12) Create a Global Enabling Environment, and touching in between on health, education, water, energy, and other priorities.
For any budding Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, there are literally thousands of craftsmen, real estate agents, lawyers, and small shop or restaurant owners who might take the tax break, but won't create new jobs.
In the aftermath of the global crisis, public opinion in the North is less convinced of the merits of an inclusive financial system. How, exactly, does it help, when the reckless expansion of mortgage credit in North America just triggered the deepest recession in recent memory?
Don't assume you know what customers want. You need to genuinely ask them. Better yet, you need to engage in a real dialogue, observe daily behaviors, and design an open-minded, joint discovery process.
Projects to pay government benefits and humanitarian aid in electronic form are a boon. They increase security and accountability while decreasing cost. Until now, however, such projects have been isolated, with no worldwide, deliberate, coordinated push.
In an important coordinated effort, ten pilots around the world are experimenting with a model initially developed by BRAC in Bangladesh that helps extremely poor families build assets and capabilities and ultimately "graduate" into sustainable livelihoods.
The bank account as the central money management tool is simply not relevant for many low income people. If we want to assist people in their efforts to be competent money managers, what is the best mix of services?
Industry players are moving beyond the "scale and sustainability" mantra that dominated microfinance during the past 15 years, with its laser focus on rapid growth and credit. Instead they are reaching back to where they began -- the clients.
The meagre savings that the poor do manage to accumulate are rarely enough and there is a need for insurance against unfortunate events such as going hungry, undernourishment for children, and pulling children out of school.