Guest Articles

December 3

Janis Bowdler

Two Keys to Advancing Global Financial Inclusion

The Catalyst Fund will provide funding and mentorship to financial inclusion social entrepreneurs


Did you know that India recently made the “Guinness World Records”? India’s government created a wildly successful program that resulted in millions of bank accounts opened. It’s a testament to the government’s ability to identify and address a pervasive issue in the country. However, as of September 2015, more than 40 percent of these accounts were dormant and many other accounts had been used only for a single transaction. Despite all of the accounts created and the great work of India’s leaders, more than 500 million Indians still lack the tools and resources they need to access economic opportunity and improve their livelihood.

Yet this isn’t just a challenge in India, it’s a worldwide problem. Today, roughly 2 billion people – 38 percent of world’s poor – across the globe don’t have a bank account. Instead, they rely on informal services to save and manage their financial needs. These services are riskier and often more expensive.[1]

At first, the response to this challenge was to implement traditional financial education to solve this issue. However, we’ve since learned that these approaches alone are not enough. The solution needs to be more inclusive if we want to help create economic opportunity for entire communities. That’s because financial inclusion helps individuals start and expand businesses, invest in education and weather unexpected emergencies. It also boosts investments, helps reduce poverty and inequality and catalyzes inclusive growth.[2]

To help the world’s poorest, there are two new opportunities to advance:

Leverage a range of financing tools to develop a robust suite of financial products and services that meet the needs of low-income individuals globally.

At JPMorgan Chase we’ve uncovered valuable insights on effective program models and financing tools to help low-income individuals improve their financial situations. We’ve committed $85 million of philanthropic and investment capital to support nonprofits and companies around the globe that are developing breakthrough technologies and innovations that help consumers build better habits through well-designed financial services products. For example, through our investment in LeapFrog Investments, we are supporting AllLife in South Africa. AllLife offers life insurance for people living with HIV through a continuous underwriting model that connects the coverage to a person’s ability to adhere to their treatment program, such as taking anti-retroviral medications. In the U.S., through the Financial Solutions Lab managed by CFSI, we are supporting Ascend, which created a risk-adjusted underwriting model that rewards borrowers by lowering interest rates for positive financial behaviors, such as increasing their savings account by $50.

We also recently joined with the Gates Foundation, Bankable Frontier Associates, Accion International, Omidyar Network and others to create the Catalyst Fund. Catalyst will provide funding and mentorship to financial inclusion social entrepreneurs in emerging markets that offer breakthrough technology innovations to promote financial health globally.


Share best practices across countries to identify successful models and guide investment dollars.

We recently supported a convening with financial capability leaders in London and the United States to discuss shared challenges and innovative solutions. The group identified the opportunity to improve knowledge-sharing not only between developed countries, but also from emerging markets that are driving many of the advances in financial inclusion. That is why we are supporting efforts like Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to translate the evidence generated from their global research into insights that can inform products and services for low-income individuals in the U.S. (Note: IPA is a NextBillion content partner.)

For example, IPA’s research has found that creating customer-set restrictions on goal-based savings accounts in the Philippines increased savings by 82 percent. Our partners in the U.S. could use these insights to improve their savings programs. We are also supporting the Grameen Foundation to share insights across our grants in the Philippines and India on effective strategies to advance digital financial services for the poor – insights that would also be useful for our grantees in other markets. (Note: The Grameen Foundation is a NextBillion content partner.)

Finally, a key component of the Catalyst Fund will generate insights on financial technology innovations for low-income households to inform financial inclusion strategies in the U.S. and globally. By sharing what is working across markets, we can promote the adoption of effective strategies and spark additional innovation to advance financial inclusion goals.

Financial inclusion is a global problem that one company, government or organization cannot solve on its own. To scale the best of the best requires a willingness to test, learn and partner. We hope to continue our contributions by leveraging our global platform to invest in innovative models, evaluate what’s working and share it with our partners to continue to drive progress.

Janis Bowdler is the head of Financial Capability Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase, Global Philanthropy.


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Investing, Social Enterprise
financial inclusion, social enterprise