Financial Inclusion

Rome, 9 November 2018 – According to a definition adopted by the Italian Banking Association, we refer to financial inclusion as “a cluster of different practices aiming to develop the access to banking services of people and organizations not yet fully integrated in the ordinary financial system. Such practices include the offering, for banks, of credit services, saving services, payment services, payments with the transferring of money funds and remittances, programs of financial education and reception in the branch office”. Financial inclusion represents the level of permeation that an ordinary financial system can have among the population; the international community regards it more and more as a key step in allowing citizens to fully take part in the economic and social life, improving the financial system as a whole and curbing down poverty as a result.

The first major step in recognizing financial inclusion as a worthwhile goal on an international level was the 2009 G20 Pittsburgh Summit, where the country leaders pronounced their undertaking to support financial inclusion and foster microcredit. Such commitment has been implemented by creating a specific group of experts, the Financial Inclusion Experts Group (FIEG), which, after long consultations involving policy makers, public authorities and private individuals, elaborated the “Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion” in the 2010 Toronto Summit. This framework consists in nine guidelines addressed to policy makers, which are formulated in rather ample terms to guarantee a more flexible and precise approach. The principles in question are “Leadership”, “Diversity”, “Innovation”, “Protection”, “Empowerment”, “Cooperation”, “Knowledge”, “Proportionality” and “Framework”.

The causes that impede a complete capillarity of financial systems (leading therefore to the subsequent exclusion of often large sections of the population) are various and, in many cases, very complex. The European Commission tends to regroup them in three categories: “social reasons”, “demand related reasons” and “supply related reasons”. Among them, we can find a low per capita income, the generational gap pertaining to the use of new technologies, lack of accessibility[1], high costs, insufficient openness and transparency from operators and fearful and distrustful behaviours from consumers, especially among the poorest ones. Educating citizens on how the financial world works is crucial for the achievement of the largest amount of financial inclusion as possible; in this regard, the OECD has stressed many times the importance of developing programs that cultivate financial literacy since school age.

According to a 2011 estimation of the World Bank, there were 2.5 billion people and 450 million of enterprises regarded as financially excluded. The World Bank has estimated the rate of financial exclusion in 2017 being roughly of 1.7 billion people. New information technologies have had (and still have) a key role in fostering financial inclusion, allowing banks, for example, to put their services on-line so that their clients will not need to travel to branch offices (the so-called “multimedia bank”). The Global Findex Database 2017, drafted by the World Bank, states that, on a global scale, 52% of the adults carried out digital payments against 42% of adults in 2014. The World Bank has further elaborated that if governments decided to carry out public payments- such as paying the income of public workers and distributing pensions- through digital means, the number of unbanked adults would be reduced by up to 100 million.


[1] In some countries, logistical and bureaucratic barriers make the access to the ordinary financial system extremely difficult. For example, there is a vast majority of people in India without identity cards or driving licenses: to address such “identity vacuum”, the Aadhaar (meaning the “foundation” in Hindi) was established in 2009, a database in which biometric and demographic data are stored. Over a billion people has registered in the system and obtained an ID number, so that they could access to basic public services from which they would have been otherwise cut off.

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