Is the Global Findex survey overstating growth in financial inclusion?

NextBillion, 11 May 2015

Since it was published a few weeks ago, the 2014 Global Findex financial inclusion report has made a splash in media around the world. The headlines may have differed, but the articles all mention the key finding from the press release published by the World Bank: Massive Drop in Number of Unbanked. According to the Findex survey, which covered more than 150,000 people in 143 economies, the number of people with financial access grew from 51 percent to 62 percent between 2011 and 2014, a shift that reportedly represents a total of 700 million people worldwide.

While we highly appreciate the survey and the light it shines on the state of financial inclusion across the world, we are concerned about the accuracy of this headline finding. The growth it suggests is almost certainly overstated. To illustrate this concern, we suggest an alternative news headline, also based on the survey findings:

Number of Unbanked in U.S. and Eurozone Cut in Half

U.S. unbanked population drops from 12% to 6% in 2011-14; Eurozone cuts number of unbanked from 9 percent to 5 percent, according to report.

If this headline seems removed from reality, that’s because it is. more →

 

Financial Inclusion 2011-14: Massive growth or a mirage?

e-MFP, 27 April 2015

The press release from the World Bank did not hold back:  “Massive Drop in Number of Unbanked,” reads the headline. In just three years, the number of adults with a bank account has grown from 51% to 62% — an increase of 700 million people. That’s a fantastic number!

And that’s the problem. Fantastic is good for children’s bed-time stories. It’s a bit more concerning when it comes to survey data. What’s the story behind this incredible, utterly unprecedented growth?  What happened in these past three years that might explain it? more →

The biggest gap in Financial Inclusion? Metrics.

 e-MFP, 27 February 2015

The microfinance sector has been abuzz with the implications of the “final word” study on microcredit impact. For many, including myself, this has been an opportunity to consider a trend that’s been taking place for several years now – from microfinance to financial inclusion. In my last blog, I touched upon the subject of metrics that this new shift requires. I would like to delve deeper.

To use the definition of the Center for Financial Inclusion, “Financial inclusion means that a full suite of financial services is provided, with quality, to all who can use them, by a range of providers, to financially capable clients.”  That encompasses many things, but perhaps more intuitively, financial inclusion means providing serving those who aren’t being served – whether they are too poor, too informal, or too remote.

It’s a compelling goal. Yet the metrics we use to measure progress came from a time when microfinance meant making loans to the poor. They simply are not up to the task of measuring financial inclusion. more →