Financial Mail | Bring the poor into the banking system

October 17, 2013

President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian was interviewed by South Africa’s Financial Mail about Women’s World Banking’s pilot project with Diamond Bank in Nigeria to encourage underbanked women and small entrepreneurs to enter the banking system.

Bring the poor into the banking system


In a pilot project in Lagos between global payments company Visa and global NGO Women’s World Banking to encourage underbanked women and small entrepreneurs to enter the banking system, researchers found a lack of trust in the banking system.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, CEO of Women’s World Banking, says they found that people who had been persuaded to open bank accounts would deposit money, then immediately withdraw it, then redeposit it to check that their money was available.

Many of the unbanked in Lagos were already saving through local agents who personally collected their savings and kept the money for them. Taking this into account, the pilot project introduced agents to personally open accounts and collect and hand out money. Iskenderian says this built confidence in the system. “The local underground depositors took a storage fee, so at the end of the month participants were confused when they received a small interest payment,” she says.

The Soweto and Lagos studies found that banking terminology alienated potential customers. In response, Standard Bank changed the word “interest” to “bonus”.

Iskenderian says they developed a visual way to explain product benefits. They spoke of “saving money” rather then “banking”, “putting money” instead of “deposit” and “secret number” instead of “10-digit customer ID”.

Read the full article at Financial Mail

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