One Size Does Not Fit All
By Dennis White, President & CEO, MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation believes that everyone needs the right financial tools to manage life’s risks and seize its opportunities. That belief has inspired MetLife’s operations since the nineteenth century when we pioneered “working man’s insurance” in the United States. And it inspired MetLife Foundation in 2013 to make global financial inclusion the focus of a five-year, $200 million commitment.
Our perspective on financial inclusion goes beyond a concern with access alone. Too many people, even those who may be numbered among the “financially included,” only have access to rigid, one-size-fits-all group loans that do not meet their needs—and may even leave them worse off. Women, especially, are more likely to be financially excluded or limited to group-loan products. And although financial exclusion is often considered the developing world’s issue, important disparities exist in the industrialized countries too, often along gender, ethnic, and socio-economic lines, between who is fully financially included and who is not.
MetLife Foundation works to ensure that more of the world’s families have the full range of financial services they need—safe, affordable, properly regulated, convenient to access, and delivered by providers who treat them with respect. We believe that institutions should adapt to customers’ needs, not the other way around. And we’re proud to work with likeminded partners all over the world, including in some of the G20 countries.
In India, MetLife Foundation grantee Grameen Foundation is working to expand clientcentric outreach among some of the poorest communities in Uttar Pradesh. Grameen, in partnership with local institution Margdarshak, is launching a “business correspondent model,” in which agents acting on the institution’s behalf fan out among the poor and underserved communities. Equipped with mobile technology, these agents go door to door, enrolling and Dennis White, President & CEO, MetLife Foundation serving customers. This approach, literally “doorstep banking,” is the opposite of one-sizefits-all, and reflects the deep commitment to customer service that is MetLife Foundation’s philosophy.
Trickle Up, another MetLife Foundation grantee in India, takes customer centricity seriously as well. They work intensively with ultra-poor households in Odisha and West Bengal, helping those families identify the skills they possess that might translate into an income-generating activity. Then Trickle Up provides technical skills training in that activity, provides intensive one-on-one coaching, and facilitates access to financial services. This integrated package of services has shown promising results in breaking the multi-generational cycle of poverty.
Mexico’s Pro Mujer is one of that country’s best known names in women’s economic empowerment. With MetLife Foundation’s support, Pro Mujer is helping its clients make the transition from group loans to more tailored, individual loans that will position them for greater economic success. True to their mission, Pro Mujer is supplementing its financial services with access to health care, business training, and a social space where clients find support among a network of peers and Pro Mujer staff.
Women’s World Banking, a global leader in financial inclusion since the 1970s, is also using support from MetLife Foundation to expand women’s access to individual loans. WWB is working in three large markets, Egypt, India, and Mexico, to ensure delivery of better credit products to more than 500,000 clients who in turn will see their small businesses better positioned for growth.
MetLife Foundation is proud to work with some of the most respected organizations in financial inclusion, leaders who share our commitment to customer centricity. We are proud as well to be identifying and nurturing promising innovations in the field of behavioral economics, which holds the potential to take customer centric service to new levels by leveraging or mitigating the motivations and constraints that drive people’s financial behaviors. We are excited by the rapid growth and evolution in the deployment of digital financial services, the force multiplier that can bring financial inclusion to truly universal scale.
Perhaps most of all, MetLife Foundation is honored to be part of a global effort that is succeeding. World Bank statistics indicate that financial inclusion has expanded by 20 percent in the past three years alone. That amazing progress is evidence of what can happen when a critical mass of players, from a vast crosssection of nations and industries, works together toward a common goal.
Our task now is to ensure that financial inclusion does not become just a matter of numbers. Financial services is a people business. Financial inclusion will truly succeed only if customers always remain at the center and the depth and breadth of their financial needs are met.