Financial Inclusivity – Building for the Future

Written by Di Princell

June 29, 2021

“We’re all part of an interconnected system and once we see that, our responsibility becomes very clear. We have to help those in need today, AND ensure the world emerges a stronger, more resilient place—because doing the right things for society will lead to the right outcomes for business.”
~Ajay Banga Executive Chairman, Mastercard

Relying on money in our pockets to buy food, pay rent, purchase gas, and support daily living would be a dangerous game, but that’s how the unbanked lives. . . . not a good scenario for financial success. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 26 million Americans have zero credit history putting them at a huge disadvantage for getting hired, borrowing money, qualifying for housing, and living a financially stable life.

Twenty five percent of U.S. households are either unbanked or underbanked according to CNBC’s March 2019, On the Money podcast. Even though these two terms are used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. The unbanked households don’t use banking services due to lack of money, generally paying in cash, prepaid debit cards, or money orders. The underbanked households have either a checking or savings account, but, for lack of money, don’t necessarily use them.

Most of us take for granted access to affordable credit however, many underserved and impoverished communities don’t have access to bank branches. If they need a loan, the extreme interest rates offered would be prohibitive. The poor citizens of our country are living in a financial maze with no exit door. It’s time for the financial community to break down the walls by offering realistic economic opportunities accompanied by an educational process. We can’t expect people to change what they don’t understand.

Financial inclusion has a lot of definitions and that’s part of the underlying problem. The World Bank’s definition: “Individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.” Some definitions use the phrase “equality of opportunities to access financial services.” Using the word “equality” in the banking world sounds like an oxymoron, one that will never be reached in our lifetime.

Good news, financial institutions and FinTech’s are finally addressing the enormous economic roadblocks that many underserved, impoverished communities face. Bad news, it’s not going to be easy. The first step, opening bank accounts for the unbanked encourages people to accumulate funds, send/receive payments, and start a credit history. Bad news, it takes extra money to activate an account. The second step, understanding account usage and gaining access to affordable credit are whole different beasts, requiring actual money and educational programs/advisors that will motivate behavioral changes. These attempts at inclusivity for banks and credit unions are going to be expensive, risky, difficult, and hard to measure. The financial world will advertise their “inclusive programs,” but how many unbanked and underbanked people will genuinely benefit? This is an important beginning to an overwhelmingly complex problem. The third step, tripping over yourself, experiencing many missteps followed by insightful lessons will eventually contribute to a workable financial inclusion model of the future.

RIBBIT.ai’s COO, Rick Fiorito says – – “All meaningful changes have a starting point, and that’s where we are. Meaningful changes rarely come from a defining big bang moment. Incremental action, assessment, and reaction, done with consistent focus on the goal is how meaningful change happens. Our data analytics company, RIBBIT.ai, is addressing financial inclusivity by building a dynamic, evolving program that will use data that supports business decisions and apply that data to individual consumer decision-making that will expand and improve over time. As information is gathered and understood, RIBBIT.ai’s artificial intelligence will analyze the data and deliver valuable insights to the underserved consumers who needed it the most. RIBBIT.ai is excited to join with others to make this change happen!”

 

Stay tuned . . .

 

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