The mobile money revolution has been greeted with great excitement in some circles for the potential it holds to increase financial access for the world’s poorest. Women may especially benefit from expanding financial inclusion through mobile financial services (MFS). Women not only handle a lot of cash to provide for household needs in many societies, but they may be explicitly or implicitly discouraged from using bank branches. A new report (sponsored by Visa and the GSMA mWomen Programme) by FAI affiliate Daryl Collins explores just this theme. In “Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets,” Collins and her coauthors explore the untapped potential of woman as a strategic consumer base for MFS providers.
A summary of the report’s conclusions:
- Women in developing markets are an important potential customer base for mobile financial service providers. Poor women are active household financial managers and contribute significant supplementary income to their households, yet their potential as MFS clients has not been fully realized by service providers.
- Women across all five countries in the study voiced their need for four key attributes in financial tools and services: convenience, reliability, security, and privacy. Stretched for time and responsible for a multitude of household responsibilities, women favor easy-to-use and low-risk money management tools.
- MFS can better meet women’s financial management needs than many of the formal and informal tools they use today. Use of informal financial management tools is widespread; however, these informal tools often fall short of meeting women’s needs.
- Mobile operators can achieve scale and stability if they build and maintain the women’s segment of the MFS market. When their needs are met consistently, women can be very loyal and engaged customers, providing both scale and stability for MFS providers.
- Agents are critical to meeting women’s wants and needs and driving adoption of MFS. Building an effective, reliable agent network is one of the most important investments an MFS provider can make. Women’s willingness to try MFS products often depends on her agent’s performance and the trust he can engender in her.
- There are significant, but not insurmountable, barriers to wider adoption of MFS. Advertising focused on how men will use the service rather than women, as well as more traditional barriers such as low awareness, lack of knowledge and distrust about the services, present significant hurdles to the widespread of adoption of MFS.