Banking the unbanked

Published on September 28, 2017   24 min
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I'm Alex Murphy. I'm the director of Mobile partnerships for Worldremit. We're an international money transfer service that's available in an app and online. We partner with financial institutions to enable people to send instantly to their loved ones, mostly in the developing world. So, most especially we are a leading provider of international remittances to Mobile Money. And that's what I'm going to talk about today. You may not have even heard about Mobile Money, but it is playing an increasingly important role in the evolution of financial services around the world and is having an impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide who don't have a bank account.
Now, in order to understand what Mobile Money is, and how it first came about, we need to understand a little bit more about the challenge of financial exclusion, and what it is that Mobile Money aims to solve. So, when we talk about financial inclusion, or banking the unbanked, it's important to understand that what it really means to live without access to formal financial services. Now, the World Bank estimates that there are two billion people in the world who don't have a financial account. Or more accurately, any formerly regulated financial service by which they can store, or save, or manage their money. A large body of research has gone into understanding the reasons why so many people are financially excluded. But, the primary reasons include things that you would assume to be the case such as distance. And many people around the world simply just live too far away from a bank branch, or things like, lacking necessary documentation papers like an identity card in order to even get a bank account in the first place. There's a lot of issues around trust in financial service providers, particularly among poorer segments of society who have been traditionally marginalized from these services. And also things like cultural barriers such as attitudes around women using financial services. But, even more simply, for many people around the world having access to a financial account actually is about not having an income that is either too low or in some cases too fluctuating to be feasible for that financial institution to set. And the reality is that, most financial services aren't yet affordable, or designed to fit the needs of low income users. What that means is that, two billion people around the world either store all of their money in cash, literally in a box under the mattress, or in a cupboard, or hidden somewhere in their house, or they store their wealth in vulnerable assets like livestock or grain which of course, can be affected by all sorts of things like drought or theft. And on a larger scale, when you think about what that means for an entire society and in a national economy, that is huge because