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Testing products, scaling solutions

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Mobile money and digital payments have opened the door to a new generation of products that have lowered costs and made serving unbanked and underbanked consumers a promising business proposition. But in spite of continuous innovations and a steady growth in digital financial services, take-up of these products remains low and usage rates are often disappointing. Many financial service providers are struggling to make these digital products live up to their full potential for businesses and consumers.

Digitizing payments and G2P transfers has the potential to increase safety and efficiency, but first requires providers to develop ways of onboarding large networks of new clients. A recent partnership between researchers, financial providers, and garment factories in Bangladesh, for example, is testing the most effective way to transition salaried factory workers from cash to electronic payroll. As similar programs help to expand the user base of digital services, providers could leverage these platforms to expand access to additional products targeting specific segments of the populations, such as women, farmers, and entrepreneurs.

Financial products tailored to women in particular are a promising avenue for providers looking to expand their client base. Nearly 50 percent of women in developing economies still don’t have access to financial services. For providers interested in reaching this pool of potential customers, it is critical to design products that meet the specific needs of women.

A similar understanding of clients’ needs is critical for serving low-income households more broadly. In some ways, the financial lives of the poor are more complicated and mentally taxing than those of more well-off households. Well-designed products that help individuals successfully navigate the difficulties of daily financial life may be able generate new demand for financial products.

 

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