Citi CEO Michael Corbat's Keynote at Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum
Thank you all very much for joining us here today to kick off what I’m sure will be a meaningful few days together.
First, I’d like to thank Diana for that kind introduction. As you all know, Diana doesn’t have one job—she has three. At Citi, we’re fortunate to benefit from her wisdom and expertise on our Board of Directors, just as all of us in this room benefit from her leadership of Accion’s Board—with whom Citi has had a tremendously successful association for more than 40 years.
As Diana said, the next few days will be filled with important discussions about how we can all work together to create new partnerships and frame the way we advance financial inclusion around the world. I’m proud of Citi’s role is helping to make these conversations possible.
Today I want to talk about Citi’s perspective on why the time is right to begin pulling together our collective resources, knowledge and connectivity to achieve greater financial inclusion.
I believe our goal is achievable. And I know it’s not only important for the communities where Citi operates, but that there is a value proposition that aligns with Citi’s core business strategy.
As we look to the future and the three dominant secular trends against which we’ve positioned our business—globalization, urbanization and digitization—financial inclusion is a goal that is closely aligned with all three trends and with our effort to seize them for our clients.
- Globalization. Rapid advances in technology and communications mean that, in many ways, our world is becoming less fragmented and more interconnected.
- Today when we talk about growth, we don’t mean growth only in pockets of the developed world, but the economic expansion that is taking place across geographies. The organizations that recognize this will be best positioned to seize new opportunities, and support new and growing markets.
- Urbanization: Today more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that figure will climb to 70 percent, creating both challenges and opportunities related to how urban populations will interact with each other and their surroundings.
- As this population shift accelerates, a larger and larger share of global GDP will be generated in cities, and the incomes of city dwellers will rise.
- A central focus of our work must be to ensure that these new urban residents are able to access the services and products that give them a foothold in their local economy, allow them to save and build assets, and improve their quality of life.
- Digitalization touches every aspect of our business, front office to back, consumer and institutional. And it’s transforming the way life is lived and business is conducted on every continent in every sector.
- For banks, online and mobile technology has the potential to improve security, increase efficiency, lower costs, and enhance connectivity and convenience for both large payers and individual end-users.
- This last point is especially relevant to those low incomes. More than 6 billion people worldwide have access to a mobile phone. Like never before, there is now the ability to directly deliver information, education, and payment services directly into the hands of most of the world’s population.
- That capability presents an opportunity to rapidly accelerate the provision of safe and convenient financial solutions, and the information about how to use these tools, to those currently disconnected from the financial mainstream.
Acknowledging the magnitude of the challenge upon which we’re all focused this week, I’m nonetheless very proud of Citi’s longtime leadership in this area.
Thanks to the high-impact investments of the Citi Foundation, we have worked with organizations and thought leaders to conduct on-the-ground testing and fuel innovative thinking about what a more financially inclusive world looks like, and how to get there.
Equally important, Citi has decked its business resources against this effort, because we know that doing so makes sense for our communities and for our clients.
- Citi Microfinance works with our businesses in more than 40 countries—and not only microfinance institutions, but many other corporate and government institutions, some here with us today, to provide access to capital, payments and mobile platforms that support financial inclusion.
- Earlier this year we launched a new electronic payment solution that makes it possible for small grocery stores and other businesses in the Dominican Republic to replace cash payments to their suppliers with mobile transactions.
- In collaboration with a local mobile payment administrator and a local microfinance institution, it is now possible for small businesses that are not yet part of the banking system to open an account and perform more secure and convenient business transactions.
- Similarly, in Africa and in many of our markets where agriculture is a critical livelihood, Citi and the Citi Foundation have done research and are working with clients, NGOs and other stakeholders that source agricultural products to improve access to finance for local farmers.
- Also, last year, Citi and USAID launched a global effort called Better than Cash. In partnership with the United Nations, we’ve worked with NGOs and governments from Peru to the Philippines to reduce corruption, increase financial transparency and improve electronic payment systems.
- Our partnership with USAID also focuses on mobile money and its transformational potential to improve the lives of the roughly 2 billion people in the world who have a mobile phone but lack access to financial services—the “unbanked.” Citi and USAID developed a set of principles to help governments accelerate their mobile money ecosystems. Citi's technology combined with USAIDs know-how in financial inclusion show how public private partnerships can move the financial inclusion agenda forward.
Financial inclusion today means going far beyond traditional microfinance. It means working with partners to go the last mile and reach deep into communities where access and education is needed most.
On the topic of education, we need to embrace the responsibility to develop smarter, safer, and more active financial consumers.
- Research commissioned by the Citi Foundation describes the business case for connecting with the roughly 700 million people in developing markets who have access to finance but who have not received any form of financial education.
- We need more financial institutions embedding this kind of financial capability training in their business models. Doing so benefits both clients and providers, while strengthening the financial system.
Of course, challenges remain. Among them:
- Poor financial infrastructure in many countries; regulatory uncertainty; uneven costs to both end-users and providers;
- And the ongoing need to enhance financial capability so that clients are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions.
But the time is right for this kind of coordinated effort. Our corporate peers like Visa, MasterCard, and MetLife recognize the same opportunity that Citi does.
Influential voices like World Bank President Jim Yong Kim are explicitly endorsing the goal of full financial inclusion by 2020.
Our partners in government increasingly view financial inclusion for their citizens as a development imperative.
Clearly, one glance around the room underscores the argument that no single organization, industry, or sector can make this happen on its own.
- It will take innovation, investment, policies, regulatory support, and business-based incentives.
- It will take the development of new platforms and technologies that are able to be widely deployed and accessed.
- And it will take coordination and a common set of principles around which every single stakeholder can assess needs, set targets, and execute—all in a responsible and sustainable way.
I want to thank you for your tireless efforts toward this goal, and on behalf of Citi, I look forward to working with you to transform these conversations into action in the years ahead.