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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

'Finclusion' gains global momentum

Growing demand for digital commerce methods in all regions of the world prompted a series of initiatives and legislative actions aimed at promoting financial inclusion. These measures will help all citizens obtain access, education and technology to transact on mobile and connected devices, payments industry leaders on both sides of the Atlantic noted.

Scott Talbott, senior vice president, government relations at the U.S.-based Electronic Transactions Association, stated the payments industry has worked tirelessly to make payments inclusive to all consumers.

"We constantly develop and deploy new products and services to address the needs of all consumers- from mobile wallets, apps, to P2P service, to ecash solutions- to ensure consumers can receive, send, hold and spend their money and conduct their daily financial transactions," Talbott said. "All sectors of the payments industry are committed and affected."

Neil Harris, chair of the UK-based Inclusion Foundation, agreed all citizens, regardless of age, race, faith or social class, need access to digital commerce. "Digital inclusion is therefore a prerequisite for financial inclusion – one cannot progress without the other," he said in a statement. "Last year there was a 50 percent increase in online use, but around 4 percent of the UK population are still digitally underserved."

Finclusion Day

An ebook was released on May 31, 2022, to commemorate Finclusion Day, a new event organized by the Inclusion Foundation to help close gaps between digitally enabled and underserved populations. The Network Effect: Digital payments as a gateway to financial inclusion explores four pillars of financial inclusion, which Harris cited as follows:

  • Technology: Rising tech adoption can lead to reduced costs in open banking and other services.

  • Government: Policymakers play a vital role in controlling credit availability and mitigating fraud.

  • Education: Digital innovations help businesses retain and upskill workers across all sectors.

  • Inclusive communities: Local initiatives can help drive awareness and financial education.

"Every financial transaction requires a payment, and as a universal customer touchpoint, the payment is the ideal place to educate, influence [behavior] and do more for customers," Inclusion Foundation researchers wrote. "As the industry collaborates to promote digital payments, it makes sense to identify opportunities to boost financial inclusion."

Marion King, advisory board chair for The Payments Association, agreed, stating all UK adults deserve access to financial services. "Being financially included begins with opening a bank account, which is much more than just a means to make and receive payments: it's also a gateway to credit, insurance, pensions and saving products," she said.

A downloadable copy of the ebook is available at theinclusionfoundation.org/index.php/2022/05/30/the-network-effect-digital-payments-as-a-gateway-to-financial-inclusion/.

For more information about the Inclusion Foundation, visit theinclusionfoundation.org/.

Inclusive regulatory frameworks

Financial inclusion has also been top of mind among U.S. and Canadian policymakers, Talbott noted, adding that ETA members and government officials are discussing ways to improve financial access, including innovative products and services designed to benefit all consumers. 

"ETA encourages policymakers to enact policies that create a positive framework that encourages the continued development and deployment of inclusive products and services," Talbott said. "Both policymakers and private sector should continue to compare notes to help achieve a positive policy environment and strong consumer-focused products and services."

Ongoing public/private sector discussions will be the focus of the ETA's annual Fintech Policy Forum, which Talbott noted will take place on Capitol Hill in September 2022. Additional details on ETA member efforts to promote financial inclusion are available in a 2022 white paper titled, Creating a More Inclusive Economy: How Fintech Advances Digital Resources for Underserved Communities. A copy of the report is available at: www.electran.org/wp-content/uploads/ETA-Creating-a-More-Inclusive-Economy-2022-2.pdf. end of article

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