The 3 Ps of Financial Inclusion — People, Products and Partnerships
With more than 60 million Nigerian adults living without bank accounts, financial inclusion looks like a gargantuan task ahead of industry stakeholders.
And it is.
So it is encouraging that several countries, notably India and Indonesia, recorded significant financial inclusion growth between 2014 and 2017.
Amidst the multi-dimensional challenges and the many moving parts within and outside the ecosystem, it can be truly overwhelming to begin to contemplate how to approach the problem.
So we decided to draft something to help with this.
In the quest to improve financial access, 3 pillars (what we call the 3Ps of financial inclusion) form the basis of every successful financial inclusion drive.
They are people, products and partnerships.
Financial inclusion is about improving people’s lives and helping them on the journey out of poverty. Achieving this involves, among a host of things, moving them away from cash transactions to digital money. This is a tough and often long term task but it is achievable. We do this by influencing people’s behaviour and affinity for cash and getting them interested and even comfortable with digital alternatives.
So far, Nigerians have been slow to adopt mobile money — 2017 penetration rates are still below 1 percent of the adult population. According to EFInA’s Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2016 survey, the key obstacles limiting mobile money uptake have been access, low awareness and trust.
In order to overcome the access hurdle, we have to build out an agent network across the country (including rural areas) in a sustainable manner. Experts estimate this number at 180,000 agents to adequately serve the adult population. This agent network will complement the other financial service points (FSPs) such as ATMs, POS terminals and bank branches which are currently insufficient to serve the country’s almost 100 million adult population.
When it comes to trust, as discussed in last week’s article, it needs to be managed carefully within the ecosystem. In order to bolster customer confidence levels in financial services, appropriate preventive mechanisms as well as advanced complaints resolution systems are necessary to ensure customer’s funds are safe and secure.
Finally, if people are not educated about the options available to them (awareness), they will not change their behavior. Right now, 80.7 percent of the adult population is yet to even hear about mobile money, according to EFInA. Therefore, awareness and sensitisation campaigns on the use and benefits of mobile money would go a long way in increasing adoption of mobile money. These should also be complemented with financial literacy programs which would encourage usage even after the account has been opened.
When it comes to financial services, there’s no “one size fits all”. People need financial services, yes, but these services have to meet their specific needs.
In some instances, due to customs and traditions, financial service needs vary across cultures and regions. In fact, financial service needs vary across gender and other demographic characteristics as well. This is even more pertinent as the World Bank Findex revealed the urgent need for intervention in financial inclusion for women.
Furthermore, our target audience, the unbanked and underserved, face unique obstacles and therefore, unique financial needs. Financial service providers would do well to adopt human centred design that builds out financial products based on a proper understanding of the customer — their needs, challenges, habits and lifestyle. This way, product-market fit would be easily achieved, financial products would be an easier sell for providers and adoption would increase.
Lastly, it’s good to keep in mind that serving unbanked or underserved populations involves the creation of low-cost, financial products since by default, these are mostly low-income citizens.
With more than 60 million financially excluded Nigerians, financial inclusion cannot happen at the scale we want without strategic partnerships. Stakeholders in other markets where financial inclusion have been successful understand this more than anyone. Partnerships enable actors to progress faster as they leverage each other’s strengths and expertise. These partnerships are established in order to improve product appropriateness, lower costs and reach more unbanked citizens — goals with special relevance to financial inclusion.
Partnerships do not have to be exclusively banks joining forces with fintechs, even though that’s an important part of the mix. Like we explored in a previous article, partnerships can be cross sectional: public-private sector partnerships, government-bank partnerships, financial institution — non financial institution partnerships and so on.
These 3 Ps are handy and constitute the foundation of any successful financial inclusion campaign. If we can understand the unbanked and underbanked (people), if we can figure out what type of financial services would meet their needs and fit with their lifestyle and habits (product), and if we can forge strategic partnerships which will deliver these products to our target market, financial inclusion would be a reality and we would be closer to achieving our 2020 goals.
Do you have any thoughts on these 3 pillars? In what other ways can financial inclusion be improved?