At a recent event in Washington, D.C., UNCDF joined with over 80 industry leaders to affirm its commitment to placing “clients at the center” in expanding access to finance.
The meeting, which brought together donor agencies, practitioners, and academics, was convened by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). Participants examined how a better understanding of client needs can lead to more appropriate financial products and delivery channels. These in turn should contribute to better outcomes for the clients in terms of risk reduction, income generation, and asset accumulation. Issues discussed included what we know about client needs, behaviors, and preferences, and how client research can provide deeper insights and lead to greater innovation and appropriate policy.
This event was the first in a series of engagements to advance the understanding of clients so that not only do more of the un- and underserved have access to finance, but especially that the finance is responsible finance.
Ensuring that inclusive finance is responsible finance is central to the work of UNCDF. Responsible finance means that products and practices are fair and transparent and avoid harm.
To achieve these minimum standards, work is required at three levels.
First, financial service providers themselves must ensure that their products and practices are in the best interests of the client. UNCDF is promoting improved client protection at the provider level by supporting country-level trainings of providers on the seven client protection principles promoted by the Smart Campaign.
Second, policymakers and regulators must ensure that appropriate regulation is in place that balances access, innovation, and security. In this regard, UNCDF joined with Agence Française de Développement to support the African Pricing Transparency Leadership Forum organized by Microfinance Transparency in Nairobi in October to facilitate lateral learning amongst regulators to promote clear pricing.
Third, clients themselves must have strengthened financial capability through financial education and other measures. In places ranging from the Pacific Islands to Malawi, UNCDF is working with governments and the private sector to enhance clients’ ability to make sound choices about uptake and use of financial services.
UNCDF believes that inclusive finance must be responsible finance—and that starting with the client is the best way to ensure that access and use of finance leads to better lives.