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.


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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30 July 2013
After years of strong growth, the microfinance industry in Bangladesh was on the verge of a sharp change in direction, when the big 4 MFIs began to cut back on branches and staff in 2008.
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From Our Blog

14 April 2014
Although nearly 30 million Brazilians have moved out of poverty and into the middle class in the last decade, millions remain vulnerable due to seasonal and unpredictable income patterns.
11 April 2014
Using data from a national household survey in Brazil, we segmented Brazilian respondents into six categories: Financially Excluded; Unbanked Bill Payers; Selective Users; Privileged Agent Non-Users; Banked Bill Payers; and Agent Super-Users.