Paper

Mass Retail Banking: How Savings Banks in Africa, Asia and Latin America Can Provide Usable Services to the Poor

How can savings banks achieve take-up of their products and services by poor people?
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This paper derives and shares lessons from the World Savings Banks Institute (WSBI) program, “Working with savings banks, in order to double the number of savings accounts in the hands of the poor.” The paper looks at what the poor really do with their money, and the potential of existing product ranges to meet their needs. The paper states that universal banking is pro-poor, but this will only be accepted when savings banks demonstrate that poor people are increasingly using their products and services. Allowing the poor to transfer money and make payments via electronic means, particularly mobile phones, is the single most important quick win open to members. Conclusions include:

  • Mass retail banking model to which most WSBI members aspire should be able to meet their needs;
  • Investments made under the WSBI Program are closing gaps in capacity to offer a genuinely mass retail product and service package;
  • Take-up of new accounts through new pro-poor distribution channels is slow;
  • Pricing for growth will have to be at levels that the rural poor can afford;
  • Affordability to the client can be achieved by shifting the transaction mix from cash to electronic.