Approximately 2.5 billion of the world's adults do not use formal financial services to save or borrow money. About 90 percent of them live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Without access to formal financial institutions, people must rely on their own funds or risky informal services that charge excessive fees to invest in their health and welfare and that of their families.
Vesting the poor with the proper knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward financial management and connecting them to financial products and services can help them manage their money more effectively, invest in economic opportunities, and reduce risks related to illness or loss of employment. For all these reasons, financial inclusion has become a critical development issue and is now part of the G20 agenda.
Expanding access to financial services in the developing world requires significant cross-sector efforts. In addition to regulatory and policy intervention—including long-term institution building, policies to promote competition in the financial services sector, and regulation to protect consumers—financial providers must develop appropriate products and services that overcome existing barriers to supply and demand, and meet the needs of the world's poor.
Companies across all sectors can expand access to financial services by engaging with workers in their supply chains. With access to the majority of the developing world's working poor, companies can improve workers' livelihoods while reducing administrative costs and possibly turnover, and increasing productivity. Companies can offer relevant financial education programs and access to formal financial products through automated payroll or remittance systems.