Financial inclusion is a concept that may seem distant to us or which we are directly unaware of, bearing in mind our privileged position on the map. However, the reality is that millions of people don’t have access to the most basic banking services or, in other words, they are unbanked or underbanked. Companies in this sector must make a commitment to individuals who are unable to tackle problems of a financial nature, pay bills or apply for a loan due to the simple fact that they have no bank to go to.
In the struggle to build a 100% inclusive and efficient financial system, the World Economic Forum published a document in August 2021 in which it explains the seven principles that would be the essential structure of comprehensive, feasible and practical financial inclusion. Therefore, not only would an essential service be offered to citizens, but significant additional benefits would be generated for banking institutions.
The seven principles of financial inclusion
1 | The first of them refers to the design of products and services, which must be focused on reducing barriers to access for as many people as possible. Prior digital literacy will therefore be necessary, and this will involve the millions of people who still don’t have access to the net being provided with equipment and internet connection. In the case of areas with obsolete technology, this must be updated. Systems must include the latest advances in security and be simple, as a starting point for an extensive and ambitious digital literacy strategy.
2 | Another essential factor in this path to financial inclusion is the implementation of secure and accessible electronic ID systems, starting from a commitment by banks and users. These systems (fingerprints, passwords, etc.) reinforce transactions, making them more efficient, in addition to building trust with customers.
3 | Security systems must make use of digital identification in order to be efficient and competitive; being sustainable while saving costs. This is the third principle. Any companies which are successful in setting in motion an attractive, quality and profitable service, guaranteeing solid data protection which prevents the possibilities of fraud, shall establish themselves at the top of the market. In this respect, demand shall bring about clear benefits, although investment must be greater at the beginning.
4 | The fourth step aims to integrate systems through integrated solutions. In order to reduce costs and improve communication, financial inclusion will involve working towards getting rid of barriers and developing systems that work together based on open sources.
5 | In order for citizens going down the route of financial inclusion to deposit their savings in a bank, this bank must directly and truthfully cultivate trust from the beginning. The aforementioned is responsible for protecting consumers and opening the door for them to financial education and digital adaptation.
6 | Data management, from a responsible perspective, is the foundation for individual user-based offers. The strategy must centre around information which is segmented and analysed. On the one hand, customers must feel that any data they provide for identification will be processed in a confidential and transparent nature, and on the other hand, they must feel that this processing will be carried out in favour of their relationship with the bank, in addition to personal and flexible treatment.
7 | Governments and financial companies must make a strong commitment to offer the necessary protection to individuals and organisations as regards security: the first while making use of their capacity to legislate and the latter while taking advantage of their technology and knowledge of the field. Unfortunately, major progress such as digitalisation of the banking sector does not only make consumers’ lives easier, but it also helps pave the way for fraud and criminal activities, which requires sound regulation and qualified solutions.
Financial authorities and companies must close ranks around financial inclusion, while making use of all their capacities. All participants benefit from this encouraging process: from individuals who were outside the system and who can gain access to a line of credit, to personalised advice or to plan their future, to traders who increase their potential while making use of the advantages of digitalisation; including, of course, the banks themselves, which add sustainable value while receiving a positive return in the form of profit.
1. Microsoft pledges to provide Internet access to 40 million people in Africa and Latin America by 2022 (source in Spanish). EuropaPress. 08/10/2021
2. Digital literacy in schools, the key to opportunities for future generations (source in Spanish). Jesús Díaz | ABC. 23/10/2021