Research & Analysis

Customer Empowerment in Finance

Low-income customers around the world have greater access to formal financial services than ever before. This can be attributed, in part, to advances in digital finance and efforts by governments to increase account ownership. Despite this growing access, many low-income customers still use informal services. Why? Because many of today’s financial services do not reflect what they need in their day-to-day lives, their constraints, and their preferences. In short, despite their growing access to formal finance, low-income customers don’t feel empowered to engage.

Customers are essentially looking for four things when they engage with finance: choice, respect, voice, and control. These four drivers are the bedrock of customer empowerment and if providers embed one or more of these drivers into the design and delivery of their services, they will build much-needed trust, prompt higher use of services, and generate business value. 

  • Choice. Give customers options and the information they need to make good choices. 
  • Respect. Treat all customers with respect and create an inclusive environment.
  • Voice. Show customers that you’re listening.
  • Control. Give customers the tools they need to control their financial lives.

Customer empowerment is not a new concept in the business world. For higher-income segments, digital payments services, such as ApplePay and Venmo, and web-based investment advisers, like Betterment and Wealthfront, put choice and control in the customers’ hands and make finance a seamless part of their lives. Relevant services create greater value and build brand loyalty. Yet this approach is rarely, if ever, applied to lower-income segments in the financial services sector. Financial services providers for low-income customers typically believe that their business case is based on expanding the number of accounts or the number of transactions made by these customers. This is only part of the equation to business success. 

This paper helps you to rethink your offerings and value proposition for low-income customer segments, particularly in the rapidly digitizing financial sector. You will learn how you can see your customers as active players and build products that increase customer confidence and trust in you. The paper outlines a business framework that is centered on the four main drivers and on practical tools you can use to drive change within your business. 

Related Resources


Advances in digital technologies and the increased availability of data can be used to support low-income customers to do more than make payments. These advances can help them to make financial decisions and develop strategies to manage their finances.