Making Digital Inclusion Financial: IFC Partners With Fidor On Innovation In Banking
While the UK financial services industry struggles to reinvent itself amid competition from challengers, technological transformation and even the hint of a growing recognition of the need for 'inclusion' post-Brexit, it should note a major initiative taking place.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is partnering with Fidor, a provider of digital banking services in a bid to draw some of two billion working age adults who do not use formal financial services into financial inclusion. They have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to identify opportunities to expand digital banking services in Africa and Latin America.
As part of the agreement, both IFC and Fidor will attempt to grow financial inclusion by identifying financial institutions and partners to introduce or expand digital bank joint ventures. Fidor will provide its own proprietary technology platform – the Fidor Operating System (fOS) – for API banking to deliver financial services in a cost-efficient manner, in addition to share its knowledge in running a digital bank from the ground up.
Fidor says it operates by co-innovating with organisations that wish to launch digital banks by sharing both its banking expertise and cutting-edge technology. It does this by offering white labeled bank solutions covering technology, compliance, risk management, go- to-market strategy and customer service.
"Digital technologies are essential to enable IFC and the World Bank Group meet its goal of Universal Finance Access – enabling 1 billion more people to have access to a transaction account by 2020. With this MOU, Fidor will work with IFC to introduce similar innovations to both Africa and Latin America to help bridge the financial inclusion gap" said the joint statement.
“The MOU with IFC aims to roll out digital banks throughout emerging countries and give access to financial services in order to boost financial inclusion" said Matthias Kröner, Founder & CEO of Fidor. “Fidor’s business model is deeply rooted in providing fair banking in the most efficient fashion possible which aligns with financial inclusion agendas. Having access to financial services can improve people’s everyday lives in emerging markets. However, the benefits of financial inclusion are not only limited to individuals, and can help emerging countries’ economic and social development, as well as playing a significant role in empowering people and societies" he added.
The World Bank currently estimates that 66% of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa and 49% of adults in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have a bank account. Extending access to finance is seen as the first building block for them to build a better life.
In stripping the purpose of finance down to its basics, there may well be important lessons to be learnt for the established banking and financial services industry across the developed world. As the IFC/Fidor joint statement puts it: "As account holders, people are more likely to use other financial services, such as credit and insurance, start and expand businesses, invest in education or health, manage risk, and weather financial shocks, all of which can improve the overall quality of their lives."
As an aside - in hunting for a suitable royalty-free image for this post I tried searching the relevant photography sites for 'digital inclusion', only to find hundreds of pretty pictures, invariably images of white folk playing with their technology. The real power of digital inclusion is financial, but 'financial inclusion' won't yield you any images in those searches. The power of bringing them together is as yet largely untapped.
British financial technology companies are "worried that Brexit is causing a shortage of software engineers and pushing up salaries in the sector, prompting some of them to open offices elsewhere in the EU", reported the Financial Times last week. Looking at China, the FT has also reported that hundreds of small banks there are launching mobile banking apps and blockchain-based trading capabilities.
How? Via the Ping An Group's OneConnect subsidiary, which has sold cloud banking products to more than 460 banks in China over the past four year and "offers to transform small and medium-sized banks’ outdated systems into a fully digital ones at a fraction of the cost and time it would take for the banks to do it themselves" according to its deputy group CEO and COO, Jessica Tan (quoted by the FT).
OneConnect "joins a number of companies around the world that are selling digital and cloud banking services, such as Germany’s Fidor Bank" the report points out.
As ever, collaboration in the use of technology is a way of making a small step into a leap.