The MasterCard Foundation Clients at the Centre Prize is offering US$150,000 to a client-focused financial service provider that best responds to the financial services needs and aspirations of poor people living in developing countries. We caught up with Sumaiya Sajjad, Program Manager, Financial Inclusion, to find out some more about The MasterCard Foundation and what exactly it wants to achieve with this Prize.
- Could you provide us with some background information about The MasterCard Foundation and in particular its focus on financial inclusion?
Founded in 2006, The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training, and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, our work is guided by a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Since the inception of the Foundation, we have committed more than $450 million toward financial inclusion projects, about a third of total Foundation commitments over that time.
- What excites you most in the financial inclusion space at the moment, and what are the biggest obstacles the industry is facing?
There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the financial inclusion space, but in the context of this prize, I would like to mention the following. The space today is open to a range of players and an even wider range of partnership possibilities. For example, the incredible spread of mobile phones is leading to solutions that are not necessarily spearheaded by traditional players, but instead by technology companies together with financial service providers. This implies opportunities not just to enhance current products and channels but also to seek alternative pathways to inclusion.
Having said that, one obstacle I see is that while a range of innovative solutions are being implemented in different parts of the world, we may not be fully aware of them. This results in their inability to scale or receive the necessary attention, and our inability to learn from them. We hope that by hosting this Prize, as well as The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion, we will be able to highlight some of these innovations, offer them a platform to exchange and debate ideas with like-minded practitioners, and enable them grow further.
- Why did you choose crowdsourcing as a means to tackle financial inclusion issues?
While we are aware of many client-centric practices in financial services firms in different parts of the world, we are by no means aware of all of them. When we decided to recognize and reward the firm that best puts “clients at the centre”, we wanted to cast our nets wide. We want to be sure that we recognize the firm that has truly put this philosophy at the core of its decision-making, no matter what size it may be. If it is doing something truly innovative that is advancing financial inclusion for the benefit of poor people in developing countries, we want to hear about it.
- Why is the theme ‘clients at the centre’?
Because we believe that, in order to truly change the way financial services organizations think about and interact with poor people, the organizations need to put those clients (current, and future) at the heart and centre of their thinking and decision-making. This goes beyond asking clients what they would like as a product or service; it means adopting a permanent way of doing business where every employee asks her or himself each day: “what more can we do to enable our poorest clients to reach their goals and fulfil their ambitions?”
- What exactly is The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion and why did you decide to invite finalists to present at the 2015 Symposium?
The Symposium is an annual event where about 300 world leaders in financial inclusion come together to learn about latest trends, share experiences, and consider how to drive greater client-centricity among financial services organizations. Attendees come representing financial services providers, mobile network operators, government officials, non-governmental organizations working in this space, and academia. We believe that finalists in this Prize competition would benefit enormously from networking and meeting those kinds of people for a cross-fertilization of good ideas. We also believe it is important to “let the people choose”, hence the idea to “crowd-source” the selection of the first winner of The MasterCard Foundation Clients at the Centre Prize.
- Any final words of advice for an organization wanting to enter the Prize?
We’re looking for the organization that is the most client-centric in the world in terms of providing financial products and services that poor people in developing countries find attractive, appropriate, and sustainable. We’re not looking for ideas per se but rather practices where we can see what true client-centricity looks like and how it is being applied for the benefit of the economically disadvantaged.