By: Sunil Sachdev, Chief Business Development Officer of GlobeOne guest blogs about how their financial technology technology can bring financial health to the lives of low-income people globally, especially women.
You could build the best bank in the world, charge nothing, and some people still wouldn’t use it. Why? Because when you are living paycheck to paycheck, there is no reason to use a bank. Maintaining a bank account adds another level of complexity to managing your hard-earned cash, a complexity that people who are barely getting by have neither the time nor resources to address. Whether they are excluded from the financial system by choice or circumstance… the effect is the same: it imperils their financial health.
Financial health means that an individual’s day-to-day financial system functions well and increases the likelihood of financial resilience and opportunity. However, while having a bank account is thought to be a panacea for financial health, it actually takes much more than having access to the financial mainstream. Financial health includes the ability to easily access your money anytime, anywhere, the ability to make payments and transfer money where it’s needed, the opportunity to build savings for the short-term and long-term, and the possibility of building and maintaining a positive credit profile. Caring for one’s financial health is critical: according to CFSI1, financial health, like physical health, is necessary to lead a fruitful and productive life.
Low-income people have not integrated into the historical banking system because of high costs, lack of access and acceptance. These barriers are especially high for women, particularly in the developing world, where they must deal with literacy challenges, property rights and access issues.2 Until banks can address these issues, they will remain irrelevant to this population and keep those that would benefit most from financial inclusion disenfranchised. Ultimately, the vision of unilateral financial health should be serving everyone equally and not maintaining a status quo where those who have less pay more for a lower level of service.
The current wave of fintech startups is challenging how we think about where we put our money in new and exciting ways. While technology can offer novel solutions, the truth is, banks provide a fundamental utility and are a mainstay of modern society. Any effective solution will not disintermediate them, but instead integrate them into a holistic model.
This is where GlobeOne comes in.
Most people aren’t familiar with our company. That is, not just yet. GlobeOne may seem like another contender in the spate of fintech solutions that are currently proliferating, but unlike the others, GlobeOne is not about disruption. GlobeOne is about evolution; a movement towards integration with financial institutions by providing services AND opportunities across a cross segment of the socio-economic spectrum on a global scale.
GlobeOne provides a basic suite of financial services available directly on a smart phone at one low price*. But unlike other fintech firms, GlobeOne has taken this a step further by adding an enhanced version the centuries-old tradition of rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAS), tandas and Ozuzus to its platform. This paradigm-shifting service is called SocialBoost™ and it gives our members the potential to create a new income stream while building savings.
With SocialBoost, members can both make money and make a difference beyond their borders – flows of capital that are generated through SocialBoost are concurrently distributed among its worldwide members, and in conjunction with GlobeOne’s P2P remittance program are projected to return over $4.7 billion annually to local communities in the first 5 years of operation. That’s a meaningful difference. Research has shown that women are particularly effective in these social-based models and are the ones who are more likely than men to funnel earnings back into their families and communities. They form the very foundation for stronger economies and actively work toward breaking the cycle of poverty.3
At its core, SocialBoost is made possible by the commitment of GlobeOne’s Member Banks, who have agreed to share 50% of the interest revenue they would traditionally earn from GlobeOne Individual Members. What is unique about this approach is that it allows money to flow between developed and developing countries, creating “crowdbanking” on a global scale. Besides bringing the underserved into the formal financial mainstream by offering an inexpensive, income generating opportunity, it also provides a seamless and cost-free way for members to contribute and make a positive impact through banking, creating a cycle of long-term financial change that has a cumulative, positive economic impact globally.
Another benefit of the GlobeOne model, including a potential for a significant social benefit is the ability to perform global remittances. Defined as “the act of sending money back to one’s county of origin”, remittances currently constitute more than $583 billion annually. As of 2014, in the U.S. alone, more than 41 million people were identified as international migrants. According to World Bank figures from 2012, US migrants remitted $23 billion to Mexico—about 50% of the total outflow–, followed by China ($13 billion), India ($11.9 billion) and the Philippines ($10.6 billion).4 According to the Institute for the Study of International Migration “Remittances particularly affect women, as they are the majority recipients”. Consequently, facilitating remittances into the hands of women, the caretakers in migrant communities, allows them to invest into the wellbeing of the household, cover the basic needs of the family, manage the health and education of household members, substitute for the lack of social protection policies and start their own businesses.
What’s to be gleaned from this opportunity? Economist Dilip Ratha describes the promise of remittances as “dollars wrapped with love,” as the money sent offers untold potential for economic development and social change. “Remittances empower people,” says Ratha and encourages people to “do all we can to make remittances safer and cheaper.” He believes that it can be done, and with GlobeOne’s technology, we believe that it can.
Technology offers the promise of reduced fees, placing more funds into the hands of the remitters’ intended targets. With streamlined transactions like GlobeOne’s P2P transfers, billions of dollars can find their way back into the pockets of those people who need it the most. It’s a new way for banks to give back to the community, and a humanitarian outreach made possible by smartphone technology.
Banking has changed little in the last 200 years, but technology is now providing an opportunity to challenge that and GlobeOne is providing a solution that feeds both the financial and the social bottom line. While we need to be sustainable in order to ensure operations, we are creating a solution that also holds us to a higher standard. In a world that is growing more transparent and volatile in economic, social and environmental terms, GlobeOne recognizes that these opportunities need to be addressed from a social enterprise perspective, tackling social problems to improve communities and people’s lives. We built this platform to make financial health achievable for everyone and when we launch early next year, we can’t wait for them to come.
*adjusted for purchasing power parity on a country-by-country basis
1 CFSI’s “Understanding and Improving Consumer Financial Health in America” page 3
2 CGAP’s “Banking on Change: Enabling Women’s Access to Financial Services”
3 Forbes “Women: The Global Economic Engine”
4 Business Insider April 7, 2014 “Here’s Where Migrant Workers In America Send Their Money”