Low income and poor clients are often described according to their poverty level. This can obscure the fact that poor and low income clients are a diverse group of people-–and require diverse products and services.

More refined empirical research is starting to shed new light on where real demand for financial services lies, and the range of needs poor households have across their lifespans.

A study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation showed that of the 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 a day, about 600 million are small-holder farmers. About 180 million are microentrepreneurs. And there are 800 million youth living in poverty.

Over the past few years CGAP has stepped up its own work on poor and low income clients to deepen understanding of poor people’s needs and behaviors so that financial markets offer more relevant, valuable, and appropriate services.

Through specialized projects CGAP has focused on better understanding the extreme poor, and as part of the Youth Consortium we have explored the business case for youth savings. We have also conducted new research on micro and small businesses. One of the most significant areas of our work continues to explore whether and how branchless banking solutions could be effective channels for meeting poor and low income people’s needs, particularly beyond basic transactions.

Our market segmentation work in Mexico has sparked the interest of major banks, who are now looking to extend their reach to the low income population. And our work with AppLab in Uganda and with in Mexico and Brazil continues to explore how to use client research to create products that truly meet the diverse needs of low income and poor populations.

In the sub-topics within this section you will find information and links to new research about poor and low income clients and their financial services needs and uses.


16 June 2014
Financial service providers who are serving or who want to serve this important customer segment need to invest in understanding these customers’ needs and develop products that meet those needs.
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24 March 2014
To develop a deeper and organizational level of understanding customers, a cross-functional team at Janalakshmi, a microfinance institution in India serving over a million customers in urban areas, applied a design thinking process facilitated by innovation consultants.This brochure describes the process and the tool used to create customer profiles.
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From Our Blog

10 September 2014
Taking a more customer-centric approach to financial services for the poor can help create a better value proposition for customers. BanKO, in the Philippines, is one company utilizing this approach.
28 August 2014
The Kenyan Financial Diaries project found that many poor households prioritized savings over liquidity when it came to their household budgets. Many viewed this as the way to get out of poverty and secure a longer term future.