In the 1990s, Canadian singer-songwriter Alannis Morissette bombarded the airwaves with her angst-filled lyrics. A disenfranchised generation resonated with her anguish. Her definitive album Jagged Little Pillbecame symbolic of that age of alienated grunge. Today, it is somewhat ironic that things haven’t changed. However, instead of feelings of irony, this generation is obsessed with global warming, the pandemic, and the growing chasm between the rich and poor. Within this abyss of international indifference between the haves and have-nots, an estimated ten percent of the world’s population continues to be unbanked and underbanked, ironic given the advanced development of AI IT infrastructure technology within the banking and fintech industries.
However, more attention is needed from these institutions to address this percentile. A population that’s found themselves slipping through an apathetic, gaping socio-economical gap through no fault of their own within an environment that embraces these invisible inhabitants. Media optics heighten their plight, an overlooked issue. The unbanked collective a scenario judged as being unworthy, worthless. This scenario is often due to archaic assessments made by traditional socio-economic structures that emphasize established criterion that focuses on the physically obvious. Whether that has been addiction, ethnicity, geography, homelessness, mental health, or other manufactured constructs avoids realizing their collective potential. Digitization and globalization are changing this traditional demographic- from exclusion to inclusion, as conventional bricks-and-mortar reconsider their developmental strategies.
A quick read of this situation would be for banks to reconsider the banking services they offer, to whom and how. Here is where the underbanked can be targeted.
The banking industry needs to change its pathological tendency to focus on income and assets to [re]engage in financial inclusion. If their focus is to move forward successfully, they need to address these fiscal lepers entrenched in an inherent bias and bigotry ecosystem. Traditional requirements need immediate reconsideration and re-evaluation as e-banking and e-commerce becomes the norm.
In an industry frequently shrouded with secret handshakes, the accepted anonymity of their service needs to become humanized. Banking’s’ interactive facets need accessibility for all. Being unbanked need not be dehumanizing. It is a contemporary issue beyond the unpopulated wastelands of Amazonian rainforests and Sub-Saharan Africa, a very lived reality for the similar percentiles that inhabit the urban ghettos of the Western world. This increasing percentile is a ready marketplace. Banks don’t need a hard-sell but a human heart to attract them. They need to diversify their focus, adjust to the world’s evolving population with flexibility, and adapt to the client’s needs with competition and relevance. They need to encourage financial inclusion with humanity.
The unbanked are more likely to take advantage of any service offered by traditional banking services that contradict the usual hustling proffered by loan sharks and pay-day loan operators, pawnshops, and sari-sari- establishments. These traditional establishments prey on their vulnerability, accustomed to the banking industry’s indifference. Given the opportunity, the underbanked want to embrace any service offered to them by convention. They are more inclined to save through accessibility or remittance, creating new normalcy for them. They desire control of their lives and livelihoods instead of the familiar oppressive yoke of debt-bondage and crippling interest rates. All this is attainable.
Traditional banks need to address their methodology when assessing potential clients to maintain relevance. They need self-regulation to interact. There are already answers to this problem. YouTap, Chime, and ApplePay are available to traditional banks. They offer technology that supports convention and digitization; implementing these tools with an attitude change is a simple solution to a percentile that desires inclusion, overturning long-held beliefs and customs. Applying these simplistic concepts is an unfettered opportunity for the unbanked to humanize their situation, making their lives matter.
Isn’t it ironic that by applying humanness to banking and digitization, an untapped, thankful resource could make the difference between being either in the black or in the red?