Fintech for good: 6 takeaways from Money 20/20

Money 20/20 is always an exciting conference that demonstrates the bold, innovative new ideas that are disrupting finance. I have had a chance, over the years, to speak about how these trends can be harnessed to help bring needed financial services to three billion people who are excluded or poorly served today.

Earlier this week, I joined Hyperion’s David Birch, Omidyar Network’s Arjuna Costa, Stellar’s Jed McCaleb, Mastercard’s Daniel Monehin, and The New School’s Lisa Servon for a panel discussion on how we can advance inclusive finance in the United States by adopting policies, technologies, and insights from abroad.

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Lisa questioned some of the basic assumptions we make in assessing financial inclusion — namely, that while “inclusion” and “exclusion” are binary, in too many cases, we conflate outright exclusion with the underserved. That isn’t accurate, and likely doesn’t match the underbanked’s perceptions of themselves — people who use cashing services and payday lenders wouldn’t consider themselves excluded.
  2. Daniel also thought that we may need different perspectives, business models, and tools to adequately measure and address this problem. In the end, it may be worth considering if we can use financial health as a new framework to measure the impact and need for inclusive finance.
  3. Jed noted that establishing a user’s identity is still one of the primary barriers we need to overcome to promote financial inclusion. He added that we also still need to create an interoperable system that allows customers who use different mobile networks or belong to different banks to transact seamlessly.
  4. Likewise, Arjuna noted that stacked technologies in India are bringing more people into the financial system. In fact, the country provides several great examples of how we can increase the volume of transactions for the underserved in the U.S. through an interoperable system based on verified user identity; India’s Unified Payments Infrastructure and complementary Aadhaar national identity program are combining to bring millions more people into the world economy.
  5. Dave underscored that promoting inclusive finance in the United States can do more than advance social progress – it can also tap a vast market. There are upwards of 70 million financially excluded in the United States. That’s far from a niche market; in fact, it’s a tremendous opportunity. U.S. banks should catch up with the foreign banks that are increasingly leading financial inclusion efforts around the world.
  6. And I spoke about some of the trends we’re seeing including: data analytics, machine to machine technology, the internet of things and blockchain and how there’s much to be learned from abroad that is relevant to the U.S. One example is the way Latin American countries are starting to require e-invoices and e-receipts, and how this opens up data that can help finance small businesses.

I hope that the Money 20/20 audience considers some of these opportunities and finds more ways to bring high-quality, low-cost financial services to the people who need them most in the United States. And I’m looking forward to discussing a new topic at Money 20/20 Asia later this year.

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