Women who have been excluded from the global financial system are taking full advantage of new rollouts from financial technology firms.
Financial technology is the technology and innovation that aims to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services. It is an emerging industry that uses technology to improve activities in finance.
The big question: Can the private sector, and technology companies, in particular, bring critical financial services to women who have been excluded from the global financial system?
Most financial tech startups have two lofty goals: disrupting the banks and serving the underserved. But 20 years after Elon Musk founded the early financial technology X.com (it later became PayPal), banks still dominate in almost every economy in the world. Meanwhile, the ranks of the underserved, at least in developed markets, have barely shrunk.
The big financial-services win for tech companies has been in China, where giants like Ant Financial have effectively replaced banks, and where mobile payments over systems run by privately owned technology companies are the rule rather than the exception.
Next on the list might be Latin America where tech star Uulala’s service is growing fast. Uulala is a mission-driven organisation, which aims to facilitate the financial inclusion of the underbanked and unbanked population by providing access to financial tools. Owned predominantly by Latinos, the company’s target users are Latinos without access to mainstream financial services.
Uulala empowers users by providing financial tools and services critical in building credit, sending money and participating in e-commerce. Uulala can move those without access to banking and traditional banking services now away from a cash-only environment for the first time.
The platform also enables users to participate in a full range of services they could not access before. This includes the ability to send and receive secure financial transactions digitally and via mobile devices, pay bills, build a blockchain based credit score that provides access to microfinancing. This becomes especially important in Latin America where the World Bank states 89% of the population does not have access to credit from financial institutions.
Also notable is Kenya, where Safaricom, the big telecom monopoly, did a fantastic job of rolling out a nationwide mobile payments system. Safaricom, which is part of telecoms giant Vodafone, is not really a tech company, but neither is it a traditional bank. M-Pesa is now in 11 countries, including Albania, but has struggled to replicate its early success outside Kenya.
If it sounds “normal” that is because it is. These fintech firms are just recreating what women with traditional banking access take for granted for those who have never had access to such services before.