Covid-19 is a call to action for regulators to boost financial inclusion

Covid-19 is a call to action for regulators to boost financial inclusion

Speaking at Innovate Finance’s virtual panel for UK Fintech Week 2020, Alicia Levine, COO, Chipper Cash, believes that now is the time for regulators to step up and provide fintech companies with a clear path toward regulated activity.

“It is obviously difficult to work across multiple countries that all have different regulatory policies in place. However, given the current Covid-19 crisis, governments and regulators should take the opportunity to move quickly to allow fintechs and digital financial services providers to build a clear path toward regulation.”

While recognising that certain countries or regions may typically face regulatory hurdles to direct licensing and regulation, Levine argued that the urgency and essential nature of digital financial services has meant regulators must see the benefit in prioritising these services.

The panel agreed that situations such as Covid-19 illustrate how essential digital finance has become for those in challenging socio-economic circumstances. As many as one in nine people around the world rely on payments sent home from migrant workers abroad using such digital tools, and these international firms are actively targeting the needs of the underbanked across the world.

Mobile money transfer and global remittance firms such as Chipper Cash and WorldRemit are particularly vital for migrants who rely on these services to send money home for essentials such as school fees, medical costs or groceries. As the services are increasingly available through mobile devices, they are a particularly efficient instrument in the push toward financial inclusion and the achievement of several UN Sustainable Development Goals.

While Levine noted that the need for such services is not in question, ensuring that they are effectively licenced and regulated across these markets is another challenge. She stated: “I think the call to action is really having regulators look at how financial services and fintech fit together in this new world moving forward. Regulators need to consider this and adopt policies which empower fintech companies.”

Adriana Marques, Managing Director, Europe and Global Network, WorldRemit, observed a sharp increase in new customers had occurred since the Covid-19 outbreak. However, determining whether digital remittances will increase or decrease as a result of the crisis depends closely on how governments will respond to the situation, and these results will likely vary from region to region with partnerships playing a large part in the ongoing success.

She explained: “When the lockdown was announced in Zimbabwe for example, we worked closely with our banking partners and regulatory authorities to ensure that those who rely on access to our services were able to continue accessing them.”

Marques revealed that WorldRemit’s ‘Covid-19’ information page is proving to be a key source for users who need access to clear and current updates about the status of payment services as the crisis unfolds.

The digital remittance service also recently launched a new initiative for NHS workers: “As we know many of our UK customers are healthcare workers. We’ve launched an intuitive where we offer NHS workers a £50 voucher for them to use in their upcoming transactions and we have the intention to launch this in other countries also.”

The firms hope that regulators will acknowledge the tools and initiatives launched to ease the burden of Covid-19 on underserved portions of society and prioritise their role in financial services into the future accordingly.

Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 22 April, 2020, 11:15Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

For years, I've been feeling that we're barking up the wrong tree with regard to financial inclusion. More at Calling B.S On Banking The Unbanked. The coronavirus crisis has exposed the futility of past efforts focused on getting more people a bank account. With reports of some Americans without a bank account getting their corona relief checks earlier than some Americans with a bank account, it's clear that financial inclusion has more to do with features and functionality of bank accounts that people already have than on getting bank accounts to more people.

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