Inclusive growth and sustainable development
The final round table of the day, moderated by Antoni Ballabriga, Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA, discussed how inclusive growth is the keystone to sustainable development. Participating in this session were Laura Díaz, Coordinator of Support for the Implementation of the UNEP_FI Banking Team; Mercedes Canalda, Chair of the ADOPEM Savings and Credit Bank, a bank that is part of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation and Stefan Van Woelderen, Sustainability Manager and Director of Financial Health at ING.
Before beginning the conversation, Antoni Ballabriga read a message from Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, who has held the role of United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development since 2009. In her letter, the queen recalled that 76 percent of adults worldwide are financially included, an accomplishment for which digital financial services were the catalyst. In this context, the acquisition of digital and financial skills is necessary, as they make it possible to maintain the advances thus far, and provide protection against the digital divide, with the support of financial institutions. “Financial regulators and businesses are in a unique position to foment better financial behaviors among people.” At the end of her message, Queen Máxima concluded with words of support for the summit. “I hope that the EduFin Summit brings commitments and actions to guarantee that digital financial inclusion leads to better financial health for everyone.”
At the subsequent round table, Laura Díaz reminded the audience that “banks should care about the financial health of their customers because it is good for business, but also for people.” Díaz advocated for the need to create new banking products, predict user needs, provide transparent information that gives customers confidence, and strengthen financial skills to, among other things, avoid falling into the grip of toxic ‘finfluencers’. Diaz took the opportunity offered by the forum to announce the presentation on October 3 of a common framework for financial inclusion and health created by the UNEP FI Financial Inclusion working group, agreed with the participating banks. This initiative has established a set of indicators with the potential to become common terms in the industry. It has also created a theory of change, “that we should all read and follow to achieve the desired financial health impact.”
Stefan Van Woelderen summarized the three pillars of financial health: financial inclusion, including among the vulnerable population the most neglected sectors, such as people with disabilities; daily finances and finances of the future, i.e., support by banks for financial planning for tomorrow. “Inclusion is not our goal, the goal is financial health,” said Van Woelderen. “It’s not about having access to the bank or an account but making good use of it.”
Mercedes Canalda explained the methodology developed by the Microfinance Foundation and Banco Adopem, aimed at understanding the needs of clients and designing products and services. “It’s not a matter of the customer going to the bank. We go to their home or business.” Canalda shared the video testimony of an entrepreneur supported by the bank, Elba María Matías, who has taken the reins of her family’s cattle-raising business.
Canalda stressed that financial education through digital channels is critical to reach more people. “An example of the synergies between financial education and digital inclusion are the Financial Pills and Webinars,” she explained. “These are online sessions in financial education, business management, human development, entrepreneurship and empowerment that are conducted through Instagram Live, masterclasses and virtual sessions, with more than 14,000 views in the first half of 2022.”