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Financial inclusion: progress has been made but more needs to be done

An end to financial exclusion will only be achieved through committed leadership and coordination from national governments

By Sherard Cowper-Coles  

This article was produced in association with Financial Inclusion Commission

Financial inclusion is on the march. Increasing numbers of individuals and small businesses can access the financial system. But significant difficulties remain.  The greatest challenges are in the developing world, but even in the United Kingdom there are scores of people without bank accounts – leaving many unable to borrow, save, insure themselves or manage their money in an effective way.

Digital and mobile technology will help to complete the delivery of financial inclusion. In China in the last year, for example, millions of people were brought into the financial system via their smart phones.

But digital delivery presents new challenges for individuals without access to hand held devices, or without digital skills—in particular the elderly and disabled.

Over the past year, there has been encouraging news on financial inclusion, in Britain and internationally.

In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government shows signs of addressing the financial inclusion agenda, with the appointment a Minister for Financial Inclusion at the Department for Work and Pensions. The government has stated its commitment to delivering “a country that works for everyone”, and a crucial element of this vision is a financial system which works for every section of society.

The government is expected to respond in full to the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion and a Bill is passing through Parliament to create a unified money advice body, covering pensions, debt and all other aspects of financial advice. The Commission is delighted that the London Assembly is conducting an inquiry into the Mayor’s plans for promoting financial inclusion in London.

Internationally, the IMF/World Bank annual meetings in Washington last October put financial inclusion at the top of the public policy agenda—with numerous meetings and debates ranging from digital inclusion to the dangers of a binary approach to de-risking.

But an end to financial exclusion will only be achieved through committed leadership and coordination from national governments. The Financial Inclusion Commission urges the British government to make financial inclusion a national public policy priority—embedded across every relevant government departments. We are committed to working with politicians, industry partners and the third sector to tackle financial exclusion—which has no place in 21st Century Britain.

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