This week I had the opportunity to address attendees at the Congress of Electronic Means of Payment in Brazil to discuss a topic that is central to our business at Visa and critical to the long-term viability of the financial services industry as a whole – financial inclusion, or helping 2.5 billion underbanked adults around the world access more formalized financial services.
There is no arguing that Brazil itself is a star on the world stage. The nation is a vibrant economy with growing global influence and enormous potential. Today, Brazil has an opportunity not only to catch but to leapfrog more established nations in economic development and social progress. To do so, the country needs capacity in its formal economy – planned in a way that will allow for long-term, sustainable growth. Access to formal financial services for all citizens is imperative to this equation.
How can we expand access to these services in Brazil and abroad? In part, by accelerating the migration from costly and risky paper-based forms of payment – cash, checks, vouchers – to digital currency. In Brazil, this migration is already moving at unprecedented speed.
Visa can help expand financial inclusion by doing what we do best. We are a company built and grown over 50 years to facilitate connectivity. We can connect disparate organizations – including governments, NGOs, mobile phone companies, as well as merchants and financial institutions – to effectively reach the billions of unbanked consumers around the globe and help make their financial lives more efficient, less expensive, less risky, and more convenient.
While much progress has been made to bring more people into the formal financial system, much work remains. As I shared in Brazil this week, we believe there are several key imperatives which the industry can pursue to advance financial inclusion. These include:
- Develop a deep understanding of unbanked consumers’ needs and offer a tailored approach to deliver the products/services they require
- Encourage strong and sustainable cooperation between the public and private sectors toward our shared goals of inclusion
- Increase our level of investment in technology and innovation (like mobile and eCommerce) that give consumers access to their money in new and creative ways
- Engage in dialogue with lawmakers so they understand the benefits of digital currency, and pursue informed, growth-oriented public policy
- And finally, we must ensure that everyone who enters the financial system does so with a solid foundation of financial literacy in order to participate successfully
Delivering on each individual imperative can help accelerate financial inclusion. But taken together, these ingredients can bring the vast benefits of electronic payments – and all financial services – to the whole of Brazil and other markets around the world. And that will be a very good outcome for us all.
Posted by: Bill Sheedy, Group President, Americas, Visa Inc. on September 30, 2011 at 9:54 am