A customer-centric approach to product design and delivery can offer value for financial institutions, customers, and the ecosystem at large. Apart from a strong business case for an ‘outside-in’ approach, customer-centric solutions can empower clients by responding to their needs and empowering them with the tools to control their financial lives and mitigate risk and uncertainty.  In a series of Ted-style talks, experts from the Krea University ecosystem discussed the key principles, from various perspectives, essential for designing a customer-centric financial services architecture in India and how to create a truly responsive and inclusive financial services sector that offers long-term
value to all stakeholders. The talks were focused around Enabling last-mile access through Technology, Integrating Humanities and Social Science Concepts in Creating a Customer Centric Financial Ecosystem, Women and Customer Centricity, and Leveraging Insights from the Ground.

Interface of Women with Indian Financial, SystemTalk by Soumya Kapoor, IWWAGE (Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy) at Krea University

• Gender disparity in number of inactive accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana is stark. Inactivity stems from various reasons spanning from insufficient cash at disposal, limited working knowledge of operating bank account to interacting openly with a BC correspondent.

• BC assisted and guided schedules is critical for usage of bank accounts and other financial services by women.

• While there are empirical studies clearly articulating and highlighting strong rationale for financial products and services for women, not much is explored or discussed for supply of women-workforce in financial services for servicing women clients.

• Practitioners have mentioned challenges related to mobility, lack of disciplined time commitment from women field officers and safety as primary concerns.

• Also women workers look for stability of income flow and largely field officer’s fixed and incentive are linked with targets. Such incentive structures at times act as a barrier for women workforce to participate in financial services sector.

• Apart from the tangible challenges outlined above, many practitioners mentioned that they need field officers who can “run around” and becomes a “sales rock star” indicating strong gender bias even before actual hiring.

• Designing a customer –centric, gender responsive and inclusive financial services architecture will need to address the issue of missing women workforce in financial services space.

Creating a Citizen-Centric Financial Ecosystem, Talk by Dr. Bisnu Mohapatra, Dean of School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences (SIAS) at Krea University

• The role of Rights-based approach, esp. for marginalized communities, for universal financial inclusion is not explored much, and provision of financial services is largely market-driven. Market-led solutions to solve for efficient resource allocation and return maximization, and financial services design and delivery is largely left for the market to engage, provide and serve customers/client guided by the principle of shareholder’s value maximization.

• In contrast to the existing state of supply for financial services, many citizen studies have highlighted that India as a country expects state to provide for basic goods and services. Interestingly, studies have highlighted the provision of basic financial services is perceived as the responsibility of the state to provide. While the delivery mechanism of such services could be in partnership with private players, the state cannot absolve themselves from providing such services.

• The primary concern with making a client-centric argument is customers and clients are individualized and narrowed down to very thin categories. Customers and clients are defined as segment consuming certain products and having certain preferences at certain price points. The market has to solve for these preferences. The client-centric approach does not acknowledge rights and neither makes a strong enough argument for accountability.

• Hence it will be critical to incorporate the dimension of citizens instead of just clients in the discourse, including tenets of a rights-based approach in designing more considerate and sensible financial inclusion architecture.

• The idea of clients and citizenship should be connected to the social structure of society. The idea of citizenship applied properly to financial services, can do a lot of good to the client-centric imagination

– It will allow paying attention to multiple facets a client has, for e.g. access to finance/ market is connected to many things like education, upbringing, social capital, etc. This would help identify,  understand, and acknowledge the complexities to be addressed while designing a resilient system.                                    – It will facilitate including technology perspective basis the understanding that technologies introduced are connected to unequal social forces in society. Technology is not a neutral entity, it rides on capital and private interest.
– It will allow room for designing accountability mechanisms.

Enabling Last Mile Access through Technology, Talk by Dr. Gaurav Raina, Head of Research Council at Krea University

Adoption and sustained usage of technology at last mile is complex.

• Technology adoption is largely  use case driven even for a fairly educated and tech-savvy population segment. Any technology adoption targeted for last mile will have to be articulated strongly for clear use-cases.

• Designing systems and architecture which will enable transfer of money will have to be designed for trust, comfort along with interoperability, fastness and security.

• The last mile issues like language are still not addressed in a fairly stable mobile payments segment yet. Multilingual applications, user-interfaces and customer support is critical for breeding trust and comfort from user’s standpoint.

• UPI and IMPS are recent but are increasingly contributing to digital payments. There has been a 10x increase in per capita digital payments in the last 5 years and a 10x increase is expected in the upcoming 3 years. There are around 100 million unique UPI users in the country.

• The national unified USSD platform did not require to download an app. This is the only payment channel where both value and volume has dropped. It is difficult to isolate reasons why it hasn’t taken off. From the people owning mobile phones, 50% people are using smartphone and the other feature phones. Only 1/5th of them are using UPI with rapidly increasing numbers. The number of USSD users on feature phones is dropping.

• However, USSD has seen a smashing success in South Africa. One of the reasons for that is – multilingualism – seeing/hearing things in their own language provides a sense of comfort leading to confidence which acts as a proxy for trust in the system, an important component missing in India’s USSD offering.

• For digital financial services to contribute towards universal financial inclusion, there is need to pay attention to triangulation of practical use cases, human behaviour pivoted against cultural, gender, age, socio-economic lens and map it carefully to underlying technology.

To view the talk, please click here.

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Inclusive Finance India Summit

Inclusive Finance India is a global policy platform on financial Inclusion setup with the objective of enabling cross-pollination of best practices and breakthroughs,specifically to influence India’s Financial Inclusion strategy and campaign. Recognizing the need and to support this cause, ACCESS has been organizing “The Inclusive Finance Summit” since 2004. This year the Summit is being held on January 18 - 19, 2021 in New Delhi.

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