Mapping the DNA of financial decision-making- Where to from here?

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Making Access Possible (MAP) programme has released the final Note in their series of the MAP Global Insight Notes entitled “Mapping the DNA – Using consumer insights to unlock the potential of financial inclusion”.  Responding to the new financial inclusion agenda, Note 6 brings together the insights shared in the previous five Notes to emphasize the need for a new methodology in understanding what it takes to deliver value to consumers.  The Note advocates using a consumer decision-making lens as being critical to unlocking the true potential of financial inclusion in the post-2015 development world.  

Through Note 6 that takes stock of the growing divide between financial inclusion intent and outcomes, the need to consider insights that cut across the country context, the supply side and regulatory frameworks, as well as consumer needs, behaviour and preferences is reiterated.  Note 6 takes a brave step in confronting some fundamental and enduring questions on why financial inclusion has not fully lived up to its promises.  The questions centre around why people continue to use informal financial services, why bank accounts are not used more and why most people still live the bulk of their financial lives in cash.  In taking a deep dive into each of these questions, the six MAP pilot countries are used to postulate mechanisms into bridging the divide and to suggest implications for policymakers, market players and donors.

Note 6 accepts that there are deeply held assumptions on financial inclusion that have fallen short to date.  Based on this, the Note raises five imperatives in order to initiate a paradigm shift in the way we approach the provision of financial services.  These imperatives are 1) Recalibrate what we mean by “consumer value”, 2) Change what and how we measure, 3) Localise decisions, 4) Break through the cash constraint and 5) Solve the business model dilemma.  Through a systematic breakdown of each of these imperatives, based on key findings in the six MAP Pilot countries, the Note challenges conventional thinking and decodes consumer behaviour to highlight how financial inclusion breakthroughs can become a possibility.  The logical interconnections between different consumer behaviours and choices; between financial inclusion policymakers, providers, donors and governments; and between consumers and those seeking to improve their welfare are unpacked to “MAP the DNA” of financial decision making.

It is through “Mapping the DNA” that Note 6 provides guidance towards advanced and intelligent understanding of possible mechanisms and frameworks to bridge the divide between access to financial services and the ultimate public policy objectives highlighted in the SDGs.  The imperative of adding value to the lives of consumers results in Note 6 calling for a paradigm shift away from traditional financial inclusion constructs such as simply measuring the number of people with access to formal financial services.  This shift moves towards a new approach that puts emphasis on understanding the financial needs and actual behaviours of consumers and households, the value added by local services and the (counter-intuitive) role of cash in enabling digital services.  The work undertaken in the first six MAP countries has indeed started to unlock new insights to help bridge this divide and possibly chart a new direction in policy formulation and analysis.  As new countries undergo the country level diagnostics following the MAP methodology, the MAP Programme will continue to add and test this evidence base.  This will be shared in future MAP Global Insight series publications.

About MAP

MAP is a multi-country initiative that supports financial inclusion through a process of evidence-based analysis feeding into a financial inclusion roadmap jointly implemented by a range of local stakeholders. MAP was initiated by UNCDF and is implemented in partnership with FinMark Trust and the Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion (Cenfri). In each country, MAP brings together a broad range of stakeholders from within government, the private sector, and the donor community to create a set of practical actions aimed at extending financial inclusion tailored to that country.