This maxim governs much of our financial lives, rich or poor. Yet, we offer financial services to the unbanked and underbanked, largely ignoring it. The current thinking around customer centrality as it affects financial services for the poor emphasizes appropriately responding to people’s needs and wants for financial services. But, as Kim Wilson (CFI 2016), recently pointed out this is still not happening:
We have an agenda, which is this: please be our customer, have your needs, express them so long as they are about digital payments or failing that, using a bank account – a lot – and preferably, digitally. Else, we don’t give a damn. We don’t care about your archaic methods of pacing yourself through the use of paper currency. We don’t care about your coins pressed through the slot of a savings box. We desperately want and need you to modernize, to become just like us. Otherwise we have no justification for all the work we do and all the money we spend.
Until now the perceived drivers of uptake of digital financial services (DFS) have been their assumed attributes of convenience, timeliness and affordability, relative to current formal and informal financial service offerings. However, with uptake and usage levels of only 30% for digital financial services it is clear that this rationale falls short. What have we missed? What has to change if we wish to move toward a ‘cash lite’ economy?