CGI Women in Banking is a roundtable series that brings together female executives from across CGI with expertise on key banking topics. This roundtable interview explores financial inclusion and the roles banks can play. CGI banking experts Frances Ferguson, Christina Fung, Isabelle Marechal and Vanessa Taddei share their perspectives.
How would you define financial inclusion?
It’s really about access to affordable and secure financial products and services. The un-banked and under-banked represent a very high percentage of people. Financial inclusion is about providing them with access to the financial services they need, including checking, savings, credit, loans, payments, transfers, insurance, investments, and more.
Accessibility is a bigger problem than most people might realize. It’s not just a problem in underdeveloped countries or regions. There are people living in small communities across the globe with accessibility issues. Typically, these communities are in rural areas, with few bank branches, limited branch hours, and limited Internet service. Wealth disparities also hinder access to bank services. Lower-income people face proof-of identity and credit challenges. For example, it’s often more difficult for them to meet high credit standards designed to protect banks. Culture and financial illiteracy create barriers, as well.
Banks provide a wide range of essential services, and it’s important for those services to be accessible to a wide range of customers. This requires a financially inclusive mindset, along with an innovative approach to financial inclusion that considers risk management, profitability and long-term impact. Let’s not be naive. Banks don’t pursue financial inclusion solely for humanitarian reasons. Financial inclusion can be a lever for growth, a competitive differentiator, and a way to attract more customers who increasingly want to do business with banks that reflect their own ethical values.
Financial inclusion is not only about accessibility for all segments of a population, but also about quality, affordability and education. Financial products and services should be high quality and reasonably priced, regardless of a customer’s persona, and education on using these products and services should be equally available. It’s also about equally protecting customers—their identities and other personal data, their transactions, and their financial history.