Most of us can easily comprehend the economic and social case for financial inclusion, but to develop solutions that meet the needs of underserved households, we need to understand people's individual financial behavior. To be truly inclusive, we must design solutions that reflect a deeper understanding of a customer's needs – without which even the most innovative and thoughtfully developed products will fail.
Citi works hard to develop solutions that are convenient, transparent and accessible; ones that provide our clients with real economic value, including those whose financial needs are currently unserved. We know that Citi is not always able to reach "the last mile" in serving individuals and enterprises, and that's okay – as long as we find partners that do. That's why we created Citi Inclusive Finance, a team that develops innovative partnerships with financial institutions, telecommunications and fintech providers, government agencies, consumer goods companies and others that have close relationships with these unbanked and underserved segments. Our partners are leaders in their sectors who understand the needs of these households in local markets – and importantly, they have the trust of the communities they serve. They help us deliver our solutions to more people with a far greater impact than any one of us could achieve alone.
Governments around the world are increasingly engaged in thoughtful discussions on financial inclusion, including digitalizing social and other payments. The Citi Foundation and others have supported the "Better than Cash Alliance," at the United Nations, which works with governments and businesses around the world to introduce public policy, regulations and best practices that accelerate digital platforms and financial access.
These efforts are vital to setting public policy priorities and building the industry. But to empower significantly more people and businesses, we need even more collective action – no single company, industry or government agency can tackle these issues alone. Solving the challenge of the world's unbanked will take leadership, investment, innovation and connectivity.