Financial inclusion featured high on the agenda of the opening sessions at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas. Initiatives from Asia were highlighted as showing best practice in solving identity issues.
Developments in India and Bangladesh were called out by speakers as diverse as keynote Vinod Khosla of venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, as well as from panellists in earlier deep dive sessions on the topic.
In a session focused upon financial inclusion Michael Schlein, the chief executive officer at Accion, a non-profit with long experience in using microfinance to activate local financial services, was asked what initiatives excited him most: "India. India. India."
He continued, "They have a universal identity system, using biometrics, accessible to over one billion people. Smartphones with biometric capabilities are proliferating. They have 11 new payment banks and a good approach to regulation. And its all interoperable."
The need for interoperability was emphasised. While Kenya's M-Pesa mobile payments system has become the poster child example of technology enabling access to financial services among the unbanked, its success within Kenya was qualified by some for being a closed system.
Returning to the theme of India's identity initiative, Maya Chorengel, managing director at Elevar Equity pointed to the ability a common infrastructure provided to allow new entrants to disrupt traditional banking providers, "New service providers will emerge and bring the unbanked population into financial services through different types of products and services."
In a later session moderated by Kosta Peric of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, identity was again highlighted as a key infrastructure component required to facilitate financial inclusion.
"India is the best example. It is being done for the right reasons, in fundamentally the right way," asserted Scott Dueweke, chief executive officer, Zebryx Consulting. "It provides a model which should be exported as an enabler for other countries."
Bangladesh's bKash also uses a national identity infrastructure, in this case an identity card system, to overcome know your customer requirements in a simplified manner. According to bKash's chief executive, Khamal Quadir of Bangladesh's 160 million population, some 19.5 million have a bKash account.