Working in the Latin America region, where a huge segment of our population is un- or under-banked, it’s great to see Financial Inclusion as one of the key topics at Mobile World Congress. Similar to many markets across the world it is an irrefutable fact that mobile phones, given their ubiquity, can be the key to bringing millions of people into the financial mainstream.
As top mobile providers and leaders in technology gathered to collaborate, conduct business and find new opportunities in the industry, financial inclusion was front and center in many discussions; especially since technology is one of the key ingredients to help us tackle the barriers to financial inclusion.
At the MasterCard booth, we took the opportunity to host a group of startups that are using technology to advance the financial inclusion agenda forward. This bold group of organizations include:
- BIMA, an emerging markets insurance provider that uses innovative mobile technology to bring affordable insurance and health services to low-income families
- First Access, a leading microfinance analytics company which has pioneered credit scoring for people who have never had a bank account
- International Finance Corporation (IFC), which works with companies and financial institutions in emerging markets to aid job creation, improve corporate governance and contribute to their local communities
It was inspiring to see how the visions of these organizations are moving the needle and their efforts are gaining traction in this space. There are three clear reasons why their approach has been successful. First, they offer disruptive and efficient business models that are challenging the traditional way of offering services. Second, they are making use of the right channels – meaning they are present where it matters. As I mentioned earlier, people in LAC have more access to mobile phones than to bank accounts. This has become a vast channel where startups like BIMA have been able to reach the underserved and offer inexpensive services. Finally, by leveraging advances in technology, startups have been game changers in addressing specific needs. That’s how First Access has created new forms of consumer data and user-friendly credit scoring tools in order to offer capital to those who usually don’t have a way of access to a credit score. One of the biggest opportunities in FinTech is figuring out new solutions to include those that are excluded from formal financial services. Stealing the words of Antonio Alves, head of the Americas for the IFC, and who specifically promotes private sector development, working together we can help “end poverty, through technology”.
By working together and leveraging technology we can work to tackle financial inclusion around the world. Ann Cairns, president of International Markets, MasterCard, delivered a keynote address “Mobile is Digital Inclusion” at the Congress providing an update on MasterCard’s commitment to connect 500 million people – including millions of merchants – to financial services by 2020.