Putting Clients at the Center for Financial Inclusion

29 July 2014
At the second annual MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion, more than 250 financial industry practitioners from banks and microfinance institutions, funders and development agencies, as well as influencers from other industries discussed ways to quicken the pace of innovation in financial products, services, and scalable delivery systems to improve the lives of the poor. The Symposium was held in partnership with the Boulder Institute of Microfinance and took place 16-18 July 2014 in Turin, Italy.
Keynote speaker Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless. Photo Credit: The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion
Guided by the overall theme Clients at the Center, the Symposium’s discussions focused on how the financial inclusion sector can become more client-centric to better address the needs of poor clients. 
In opening the Symposium, Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, pointed out that “putting clients at the center will be game changing” for financial inclusion. She went on to say that the rewards of doing so will be great because “getting it right for clients will instill a trust and confidence in formal financial systems that does not exist today.” Also at the opening session, Robert Christen, President of the Boulder Institute of Microfinance, discussed the challenge for financial service providers to develop a strong business case to reach poor clients with better products and services. 
At the Symposium’s first panel discussion, CGAP’s Gerhard Coetzee elaborated on Christen’s point and explained how client-centricity needs to make business sense to be adopted by financial service providers. Coetzee said that financial service providers have to maintain an active dialogue with their customers and foster a culture that puts customers at the center of the decision-making process. He also said that CGAP is working with the financial inclusion community to develop a practical guide to help financial service providers embed client-centricity in their business models. “We focus on client-centricity because that is the essential business model toward sustainable value,” he said. 

Video Credit: The MasterCard Foundation

The Symposium’s keynote speakers included Leslie Witt, Director at the design firm IDEO, and Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless. Panel discussions and workshops over the course of the Symposium featured prominent figures from the financial inclusion community, such as Ravi Chhatpar, Co-Founder and Principal of Dalberg’s Design Impact Group; Dolores M. Torres, President and Chief Executive Office of CARD Bank Inc. in the Philippines; and Kamal Quadir, Chief Executive Officer of bKash in Bangladesh. 
CGAP also officially launched its online “Customers at the Center” WorkSpace during the Symposium. This collaboration platform provides an online space for the financial inclusion community to engage on specific projects focused on customer-centricity. The WorkSpace functions as a virtual “drafting table,” where users can test and develop new ideas, crowdsource solutions, and connect with peers.
Other CGAP-led workshops at the Symposium detailed how financial products and services for the poor can be better designed so that they effectively address clients’ needs. These interactive workshops provided participants with practical tools and guidance to understand customers and their financial needs and behaviors more fully. 
The Symposium concluded with an engaging discussion moderated by Christen and CGAP CEO Tilman Ehrbeck, during which the participants themselves highlighted key themes of the conference and how to translate them into action. Among the main takeaways from participants was the emphasis on the shared purpose of the financial inclusion community to better serve poor clients and the importance of partnerships among different stakeholders to advance client-centric financial inclusion. 
For more information and to view the full agenda of the Symposium, visit http://mastercardfdnsymposium.org