MasterCard challenges old notions of the financially excluded

In the lead up to the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014MasterCard have unveiled a new report that profiles the financially excluded and underserved in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region. “Road to Inclusion” and provides insights into how to bring them into the economic mainstream.

The report looks at the financially excluded and underserved in six culturally diverse markets across APMEA – India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Egypt, and Nigeria. It was commissioned by MasterCard to better understand what financial exclusion or underservice means to the millions of people within this group, and what has triggered their choices. This is in order to better provide services that engage this marginalized audience and help them to reap the benefits of financial inclusion.

Currently, roughly half of the world’s adult population lack access to formal financial services.

In addition to providing a general profile of the two target groups, the report uncovers their reasons for not being part of their market’s financial system, and provides a better understanding of how they could become involved in the future.

Matthew Driver, President of MasterCard Southeast Asia, said, “Understanding the needs and attitudes of these consumers has provided us with important insights. For example, the financially excluded or underserved in urban centres are reasonably well educated and largely employed, so inclusion efforts in cities should be primarily focused on building more relevant, lower cost products and services rather than basic financial literacy. This means that with the right approach there is huge immediate potential in such environments to bring many people into the financial system.”

Profile of the Financially Excluded and Underserved

  • Across APMEA, they are most likely to fall within the economically active age group (average age ranges from 28 in Nigeria to 41 in the Philippines). Most have achieved secondary education or above and hold a job. For the majority of this group, financial transactions mostly involve the receipt of monthly salary, followed by payment from family and friends, and monthly pensions. The average monthly household income is low across the board, ranging from US$200 to US$500.

Four common themes appear from the research:

  • Money management is cash dominated – In the area of money management, cash is predominant given their current lack of access/ familiarity with electronic payment methods. Most tend to save through social saving schemes or by storing cash in the cupboard or coin jars at home. Though cash as a payment method remains prevalent, there are strong concerns on safety in carrying cash around and many acknowledge the benefits a bank can offer in terms of security and the interest earned.
  • Financial institutions like banks are currently not playing a large role in their lives – When asked about the main reason for not having a full bank account, many cite not having enough money while others simply say they do not want or need a bank account. Some perceive banking services to have intimidating requirements and complex processes.
  • Access to technology is limited and usage of mobile banking is low – Whilst the majority of people in both groups have access to some form of technology, this is largely restricted to a standard mobile phone only (more than 69% across all markets). However, as smartphone uptake increases, the potential of using technology in relation to their finances grows.
  • Prepaid cards could be an entry point into financial inclusion – Although most have heard of prepaid cards (over 80% in India, Indonesia and Vietnam), usage is extremely low within those surveyed, at less than 5% across all markets. Interestingly, once educated about the concept, many of those surveyed found prepaid cards to be relevant for their financial needs. This was generally in the 30% to 40% range, but was as high as 60% in Nigeria and India.

“The high use of mobile phones in these emerging markets also creates an opportunity to drive financial inclusion. We believe that a prepaid card linked to the mobile phone account can provide a simple entry point into the financial system and bridge the gap between the formal financial services sector and the millions of underserved or unbanked individuals, especially when combined with services such as bill payment and P2P capabilities. The key is providing relevant services with high convenience and low cost that empower them to change their lives for the better,” he added.

This is echoed by those surveyed who are already using prepaid cards. As high as 40% mentioned ‘control on my spending’ as a benefit of owning a prepaid card, and as many as 30% allude to ‘not having to carry cash around’ as an advantage that prepaid cards offer.

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