UNCDF has been present in Malaysia since 2018.
While the country boasts a high penetration of bank accounts and the recent arrival of mobile wallets, UNCDF plans to focus on developing a culture of innovation among financial service providers, accelerating the development of innovative digital financial services (DFS), and increasing DFS usage by low- and middle-income (LMI) people.
In the area of innovation, UNCDF is involved in the following: (1) a partnership to manage an innovation hub, which will support the financial inclusion and financial health of LMI segments; (2) an innovation challenge that puts start-ups through ‘boot camps’ before a selected few pilot and scale up their solutions, which will improve the financial health of B40 segments (the 40% of the Malaysian population that is in the bottom income group); and (3) an online mentorship platform to engage industry experts in supporting the start-ups.
The innovation hub is known as Financial Innovation Lab which began in Malaysia and is funded by the MetLife Foundation through the i3 Programme. The i3 Programme works in Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam to leverage digital technology and offer significant insights into low- and moderate-income (LMI) people’s needs, aspirations and behaviors in order to build and deliver financial services for the mass market. LMI people lack access to formal financial services and hence, have to struggle to manage their limited resources and cash flows. The i3 Programme expects to make a direct difference to at least 400,000 underserved LMI clients across the focus markets. In addition, more people will derive indirect benefits, based on the interventions’ ripple effects.
The central bank, which linked its sandbox programme to a national financial inclusion strategy, is working with UNCDF to ensure the start-ups receive regulatory mentorship and access to the sandbox. In addition to these projects, UNCDF conducted market research of LMI segments to better understand their challenges and develop customer profiles that inform product design. It established a number of other partnerships that address the issues of second-generation services like insurance and underserved groups like migrants and small business owners, among others. It formed a working group and laid the foundations for a community of practice as well.
The in-country UNCDF team is working to build the DFS ecosystem by sharing global best practices through workshops and training events as well as the numerous innovation activities described above. It will develop additional partnerships in order to leverage their existing corporate innovation journeys and test new products and services, such as an insurance and investment solution for B40 and migrant segments, which will drive adoption and usage at the bottom of the pyramid.
MetLife Foundation generously supports the work of UNCDF in Malaysia.