Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Oct 28, 2013

Financial Inclusion

Cherie Blair on New Mobile Financial Services Initiative for Women in Nigeria


This week I’m speaking at the Financial Inclusion 2020 Summit, an event that is promoting a global campaign to bring ordinary financial services – banking, credit cards, pensions, etc – to more than 2 billion people around the world who are currently excluded from these everyday services.

It’s an issue that is particularly important to me and my Foundation for Women, which promotes women entrepreneurs in the less developed parts of the world, and through which I’ve learned how hard it is for women to run a business without banking facilities. More than that, everyone needs financial services to manage their day-to-day lives and prepare for a better future. But very few in middle-income and especially low-income countries enjoy the access to quality services from formal financial service providers that many of us take for granted.

In wealthier countries, nearly 90% of the population have basic bank accounts. Most middle-class people are supported at every turn by financial services – such as credit cards for everyday purchases, mortgages to buy a home, quick and easy payment services, insurance or pensions. But in low and middle-income countries, the story is different.

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to quality financial services and at least half of that number will include women. If we want to make an impact on financial inclusion, that effort has to include women. Recent research findings from my own foundation, Visa, BFA and GSMA show that not only are women missing out on access to mobile financial services, they are also missing out on the retail opportunities related to these services.

In partnership with Visa, my foundation aims to address this gap, with a focus on Nigeria. Our project will result in 2,500 women becoming agents in the retail network of a leading financial services provider. As retail agents, they will bring branchless banking and mobile financial services to tens of thousands more women in Nigeria. Alongside the retail agent opportunities, the women involved will also benefit from training and capacity building support.

Our primary aim is to enable a greater number of women entrepreneurs to enter the electronic payment value chain in Nigeria – a sector that is set to grow tremendously in the coming months and years.

Why start in Nigeria? Women in Nigeria experience cultural, social and systemic barriers to entrepreneurship including poor infrastructure, lack of connectivity and other barriers. Three times as many men as women have the benefits of being registered as self-employed in the country, and while there are women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, the majority of them are forced to operate in the informal sector. This collaboration would offer opportunities for women to set up registered businesses in a growing sector.

There is a commercial opportunity as well. With only 30% of Nigeria’s population (84.7 million) using banking services and with more than 159 million mobile phone subscriptions, there is great potential for agent banking and other models which enable remote access to financial services in the country. This is as yet an untapped market representing a multi-million dollar industry.

This partnership is a significant step forward towards financial inclusion for women in Nigeria. Economically empowering women by giving them access to the same financial services as men,  is not only a smart way to raise the status of women and their quality of life but also brings benefits to the families and communities of the women who succeed. My foundation is looking forward to developing this project further and driving financial inclusion for women in Nigeria.


Posted by: Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on October 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Sep 23, 2013

“The Financial Inclusion Feed”: A New Flipboard Magazine, Curated by Visa


2.5 billion people globally lack access to formal financial services.  In an effort to highlight the work being done by Visa, our partners and the broader financial inclusion community, we have launched “The Financial Inclusion Feed”, a new digital magazine hosted on Flipboard.

With 70+ million users, Flipboard is quickly becoming the largest platform for digital magazines.  Curated by Visa, The Financial Inclusion Feed will provide timely and relevant content covering financial inclusion from 400+ sources, including articles, research, event coverage, videos, photos and infographics.

To celebrate the launch, Visa’s magazine was featured on Flipboard’s homepage and highlighted in the “Big Ideas” section of Flipboard, which focuses on the work being done to solve the world’s biggest problems.

We invite you to read our magazine at To get started, download the free Flipboard app for iPhone/iPad in the App Store or on your Android device (Google Play Store) and search for “financial inclusion”.


Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on September 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Jul 22, 2013

Expanding Access to Electronic Payments in India

It is well-known now that mobile technology has changed the face of electronic payments in emerging markets. For the past decade, mobile phones have been instrumental in providing unbanked and under-banked consumers with secure, reliable and convenient ways to pay and be paid. Although a lot of progress has been made, here in India, more than 40 percent of the urban population is still unbanked and nearly 90 percent of commerce is still cash-based.

Visa and its clients in India are making great strides to change this reality. Recent stats from the Reserve Bank of India prove that progress: there are now 350 million payment cards activated in the country, many of these in rural areas, and penetration of electronic payments is rising. Through our joint venture with Monitise – Movida – we are enabling financial institutions in India to offer consumers to make payments via mobile phone. In fact, earlier today, Movida announced a new agreement with ICICI Bank to offer mobile payments to its customers in India. Everyday transactions like buying tickets, paying a bill or recharging a wireless account can now be made with any mobile phone, not just smartphones.

Because the service is designed to operate across all mobile networks using any payment card – both Visa and non-Visa – we expect that Indian consumers will be able to wave goodbye to long queues while visiting the post office or paying their bills at automated tellers. These transactions, along with insurance premium and other recurring payments, are now available securely and conveniently to clients of ICICI Bank directly via their mobile phones.

As India continues to expand and upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure to rural areas, more Indian consumers will have access to secure and reliable electronic payments and financial services via a mobile phone– a critical step in the migration from cash to more convenient, secure forms of payment.   

In the long run, electronic payments will help to drive financial inclusion and fuel economic development and growth in our country. It is an exciting time and at Visa, we are proud to play a role in the transformation of India.


Posted by: Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager, Visa Inc. on July 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Jul 18, 2013

Innovation in Development Disbursements: Visa Innovation Grant Recipients Announced


Today we’re proud to recognize the recipients of the Visa Innovation Grants Program. In partnership with NetHope, a consortium of more than 40 humanitarian organizations, and an Expert Advisory Committee of distinguished public and private sector leaders, five leading development organizations were selected to receive funding for projects that will modernize the distribution of agriculture, health and emergency relief payments to those living below the poverty line.

The Visa Innovation Grants Program is one component of Visa’s ongoing dedication to advancing financial inclusion around the world.  Every year, billions of dollars in cash payments are distributed to people in need through emergency relief efforts, benefit stipends, conditional cash transfers, microfinance programs, and other development initiatives.  Digitizing these payments through mobile phones or other electronic methods not only improves the distribution of aid, but can also help recipients gain access to broader financial services, including savings and electronic payments tools.

The group of five grantee organizations includes: Agribusiness Systems International (ASI), Freedom from Hunger, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, and Pathfinder International.

Each organization has been awarded $100,000 to support innovation in and adoption of electronic payments. The projects are focused on a wide variety of sectors, yet all are seeking better ways to distribute aid to the people who need it most.

Here is an introduction to the projects selected for funding, which we will cover in depth in future posts:

  • Agribusiness Systems International (ASI)

ASI will use the Visa Innovation Grant to bring formal financial services to rice farmers in Ghana. The program will extend branchless banking in rural areas by integrating mobile finance into the rice value chain. Mobile finance will reduce the risk of theft, connect farmers and other actors with financial services, and ensure timely payments to farmers. Founded in 1993 as an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA, ASI is a nonprofit consulting organization that helps smallholder farmers become competitive in the agribusiness sector.

  • Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger will use the Visa Innovation Grant to improve access to health services in rural Ecuador by integrating electronic payments for health services through local microfinance institutions that provide health savings and credit accounts. The program combines payment services with improved access to health services and education. Freedom from Hunger has more than six decades of experience fighting global poverty and hunger, as well as developing and testing flexible and sustainable approaches that provide group-based financial services, education and access to additional products and services to poor women and youth.

  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

IFRC, along with its partner American Red Cross, will use the Visa Innovation Grant to design and test a rapidly implementable and scalable electronic cash transfer system(s) with Red Cross National Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Electronic payments improve security and transparency of aid payments, enable families to begin their recovery in the shortest time possible and create a pathway to more formal financial services. The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, acting before, during and after disasters and crises to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.

  • Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps will use the Visa Innovation Grant to provide smallholder farmers in Indonesia with access to mobile money, improving their productivity and increasing incomes. The program’s scalable and replicable model connects banks, mobile network operators and a full range of stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, while also helping farmers gain the knowledge and tools they need for success. Mercy Corps is an international development organization that helps people around the world survive and thrive after conflict, crisis and natural disaster.

  • Pathfinder International

Pathfinder International will use the Visa Innovation Grant to introduce a mobile money-based payroll system for its community health workers in Kenya. The pay-for-performance incentive model will be combined with access to real-time field data, improving transparency and the quality of services delivered. Pathfinder International is a nonprofit organization with a focus on access to contraception; maternal and newborn health; and HIV and AIDS services. The organization has implemented projects in more than 100 countries worldwide, and is recognized for its innovative and responsive approaches to meeting health needs at the community level.

There were many impressive ideas submitted by all applicants, and we believe these projects have particular promise for scaling electronic payments across diverse sectors. We look forward to supporting these projects and seeing how each will spur new ideas and models for the future of aid and development payments around the globe.

[Photo above: Elizabeth Mueni (right), a community health worker in Kenya trained by Pathfinder International, uses a mobile phone to collect data and track the health needs of her clients. Photo by Sala Lewis.]

 Check back for more updates about the Visa Innovation Grants Program and the group of recipients highlighted above.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on July 18, 2013 at 6:13 am

Jun 10, 2013

Advancing Financial Inclusion on the Global Stage: IDB Base II Forum

Around the world, Visa is driving financial inclusion and increasing financial literacy among the underserved through our products, services and network; strategic partnerships and educational programs. Visa also actively contributes to the global conversation about how to best address financial inclusion and meet the needs of the underserved. Last week, Visa joined leaders in the financial inclusion community in Myanmar, Colombia and the United States to discuss the global imperative to reach full financial inclusion and collaborate with others to identify solutions.

Last week, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) hosted its second international conference on business at the base of the pyramid, the Base II Forum, in Medellin, Colombia. The forum brought together over 1,000 leading experts who work to create innovative business models that connect private sector resources and the untapped potential at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid.

Visa’s Head of Product, LAC, José María Ayuso participated throughout the forum to discuss how Visa is contributing to address the base of the pyramid segment needs through services and solutions. Ayuso contributed to a panel discussion titled “The Great Corporate Leap to Markets of the Base of the Pyramid: Strategy or Coincidence?” As the leader of Visa’s LAC region, Ayuso was able to share the ways in which the company has worked within the region to address the financially underserved.

“Financial Inclusion is in our DNA,” said José María Ayuso during his presentation. “For many years Visa has been working with the Base of the Pyramid, helping micro entrepreneurs build their businesses. However, to be able to reach scale and critical mass, private and government sectors need to work hand in hand. There are many fronts that need to be addressed in a collaborative manner.  A couple of them are the high level of informality that still exists and effective regulation that provides real support to this segment.”  

According to a study commissioned by Visa and conducted by the Latin American publication América Economía, in Colombia in 2012,  SMEs card penetration is 13%, while in the region is 38%.

At Visa, we are proud to know that our products, services and global network are helping provide women and other financially underserved populations with access to the financial tools they need to lead safer, more convenient and dignified lives.

To explore more of Visa’s efforts to advance financial inclusion across the globe, visit our new Financial Inclusion Interactive Map.


Posted by: Evelyn Zapata, Corporate Relations, LAC on June 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Jun 7, 2013

Advancing Financial Inclusion on the Global Stage: CFSI Underbanked Financial Services Forum

Around the world, Visa is driving financial inclusion and increasing financial literacy among the underserved through our products, services and network; strategic partnerships and educational programs. Visa also actively contributes to the global conversation about how to best address financial inclusion and meet the needs of the underserved. This week, Visa is joining leaders in the financial inclusion community for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in Myanmar, IDB Base II Forum in Colombia, and the 8th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum in the United States to discuss the global imperative to reach full financial inclusion.


This week the 8th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum is taking place in Miami, FL, and Visa is participating in several activities related to financial inclusion efforts across the U.S. Lisa McFarland, Head of Consumer Prepaid Products, presented on a panel dedicated to prepaid technology aimed at bringing more access and inclusion to the underserved population. Visa also co-hosted a thought-leader roundtable with CFSI discussing how recent technology developments are enabling prepaid products to serve as an even more effective tool for financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion is broadly thought of as an emerging market issue. However, individuals and small businesses across the U.S. face some of the same barriers to accessing financial services and education, which is why Visa works with partners across the country, including governments, to help support the financially underserved.

Prepaid products can serve as an onramp to other financial services and offer the unbanked security, convenience and wide acceptance. Approximately 40 states use Visa Prepaid products to distribute child support, unemployment and other social benefits, often to citizens who are underbanked. For example, the state of Ohio transitioned to prepaid card disbursements to help reduce the 1.3 million checks they issued each year. Today, check volume is less than .5% of the 2.3 million monthly recipient payments made by the state, reducing check-cashing trips, fees and the risk of carrying large sums of cash, while allowing financially underserved consumers to gain faster access to benefit payments.

In conjunction with these programs, financial literacy has been an important focus for Visa for nearly two decades, and our programs have helped educate millions of children and adults. Our flagship Practical Money Skills for Life program includes a robust classroom curriculum and interactive resources for parents and consumers. Visa has also partnered with several businesses to launch a unique employer-based financial literacy program to help workers with money management, and each year, Visa partners with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to hold the Financial Literacy & Education Summit.

Kiva, a nonprofit organization working to alleviate poverty by connecting people through microlending, is another U.S.-based partnership for Visa. Kiva City, launched by Kiva and Visa at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in June 2011, expands the availability of microloans for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs across the U.S. Earlier this year, President Bill Clinton helped kick off Kiva City Little Rock, the latest addition to the Kiva City initiative.

To explore more of Visa’s efforts to advance financial inclusion in the U.S. and across the globe, visit our new Financial Inclusion Interactive Map.



Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on June 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Jun 6, 2013

Postcards from the Underbanked Financial Services Forum

As both a sponsor and participant at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (@CFSInnovation) “Unbanked Financial Services Forum,” Visa was among the thought leaders from the public and private sector that gathered this week in Miami to address the challenges and opportunities related to financial inclusion in the United States.

According to recent FDIC statistics, while 72% of the United States population is “banked,” more than 34 million Americans are labeled as being “unbanked” or “underbanked.”  Many of the panels at the forum focused on debunking myths and stereotypes and providing awareness and financial literacy to a population that spent $78 billion on high-cost “alternative” financial services like payday loans in 2011.

Visa’s Head of Consumer Prepaid Products, Lisa McFarland, participated on the panel “Mobile Remote Deposit Capture: The Present and the Future” alongside executives from Ingo (formerly Chexar) and Banking Up to take a focused look at how mobile remote deposit capture (mRDC) can be a potential game changer in meeting the needs of the underserved.  “Consumers are motivated by access, and with mRDC we can address a critical pain point for consumers—convenient, cost-effective and instant access to funds,” shared Visa’s McFarland.

In her keynote address, CFSI President and CEO Jennifer Tescher (@JenTescher) drew an interesting parallel between changes in the health care industry to similar shifts in the financial services industry. In recent years, she noted that doctors and others in the medical industry have moved from treating sickness to a focus on promoting wellness. According to Tescher, as Americans plan for an uncertain future by managing their money and spending well, consumer financial “health” should be a priority for financial services-oriented businesses.

Visa wrapped up our participation at the Forum by co-hosting with CFSI a thought-leader roundtable moderated by Professor Michael Collins, Faculty Director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a member of the Advisory Board for the U.S. Financial Diaries project. The discussion focused on how recent technology developments may help further elevate prepaid products into the financial mainstream while also serving as an effective tool for underbanked consumers.


Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on June 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Jun 6, 2013

Advancing Financial Inclusion on the Global Stage: WEF East Asia

Around the world, Visa is driving financial inclusion and increasing financial literacy among the underserved through our products, services and network; strategic partnerships and educational programs. Visa also actively contributes to the global conversation about how to best address financial inclusion and meet the needs of the underserved. This week, Visa is joining leaders in the financial inclusion community for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in Myanmar, IDB Base II Forum in Colombia, and the 8th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum in the United States to discuss the global imperative to reach full financial inclusion.

At the WEF on East Asia event in Myanmar, Visa is participating in a variety of activities aimed at bringing attention to the un- and under-served populations throughout the region.

Stephen Kehoe, Head of Corporate Relations, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa (APCEMEA) led a discussion at a financial inclusion luncheon for members of the financial services industry. Leaders discussed the major issues constraining the availability and access to financial services around the region and presented what policies needed to increase the level of financial inclusion. The group explored host country Myanmar as a use-case, identifying what steps could be taken to build a more inclusive system.

Today, Peter Maher, Group Country Manager, Southeast Asia spoke at the session titled “Moving from a Cash to a Banked Economy.” Peter discussed how Myanmar can build the foundation for an inclusive and robust financial system, highlighting Visa’s financial inclusion story to share best practices for shifting from cash-based activity to electronic payments. You can read his post on the World Economic Forum blog, where he discusses Myanmar’s opportunity to expand access to mobile services as a way to reach widespread financial inclusion.

On Friday, Visa will host a financial inclusion thought leader discussion. Gordon Cooper, Visa’s Head of Emerging Market Solutions, APCEMEA, will join the dialogue, exploring what solutions can serve as catalysts in transforming Myanmar and East Asian economies.

While at the event, Erin Steinhauer, Visa’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for APCEMEA, talked to The Wall Street Journal’s Duncan Mavin and Shibani Mahtani about Visa’s efforts to promote financial inclusion not only in Myanmar, but throughout Asia Pacific, Africa and across the globe.

To learn more about Visa’s global effort to advance financial inclusion, visit our new Financial Inclusion Interactive Map.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on June 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Jun 5, 2013

Postcards From WEF East Asia: Upgrading Myanmar’s Financial Systems

Peter Maher, Group Country Manager, Southeast Asia at Visa, shares his thoughts on Myanmar’s opportunity to upgrade its financial systems and advance financial inclusion across the country in an article for the World Economic Forum Blog.

Maher points out that Myanmar is in a unique position to shift its largely cash-based economy into one that’s driven by electronic payments and formal financial services. Since the physical infrastructure for its financial system is broadly underdeveloped, Myanmar has the opportunity to start with a clean slate, and adopt best practices and approaches right for its marketplace.

Maher shares some lessons learned from countries such as Bangladesh and Rwanda, where Visa has developed partnerships and seen positive movement toward reaching more widespread financial inclusion.

To learn more about how Visa is helping to advance financial inclusion around the globe, visit the new Financial Inclusion Interactive Map.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on June 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Jun 5, 2013

Postcards from East Asia World Economic Forum: Financial Inclusion in Myanmar

Our participation in the East Asia World Economic Forum (here in the Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw) kicked off with a lunchtime discussion on how to advance financial inclusion in the region. Interesting table discussions featured a healthy mix of senior representatives from governments, private sector and NGOs and offered great opportunity for Visa to talk about our ideas and product solutions, especially mobile.

Inevitably much of the discussion centered on Myanmar itself, where the government is facing multiple infrastructure and regulatory challenges at the same time. With a huge unbanked sector and a very low penetration of mobile (around 4%) it’s going to take a long time for mobile banking to be a viable solution and so all parties are going to have to focus on alternative near term solutions.

Nonetheless, the government seems really committed to learning how to make progress. The minister of finance, who was an active table discussion participant, proved to be incredibly thoughtful in his approach which is consistent with how we have found working with the government to this point.

No doubt, huge amount of work to be done but, as in Rwanda, having a government and banking sector which is set on making progress despite the challenges is half the battle. Combine this with Visa’s early success in hooking up ATMs and signing up more than 350 merchants over the last six months and it seems clear that Myanmar is set to be another electronic payments success story.


Posted by: Stephen Kehoe, Head of Corporate Relations, APCEMEA on June 5, 2013 at 9:25 am