About: technology & financial inclusion
Given MEII’s longstanding experience working with investors, banks and SMEs, MEII constantly explores ways of leveraging technology to expand access to finance and financial inclusion throughout the region.
The FINPOINT platform harnesses the security, speed and simplicity of the web to streamline the lending process for both corporate lenders & borrowers – connecting businesses with funding for growth, and helping banks to assess lending opportunities. Following its success in Germany, the FINPOINT platform is rolling out to customers in the UK and across Europe. MEII and FINPOINT signed an exclusive MOU to launch an Arabic version of the platform in the MENA region. The FINPOINT platform enables entrepreneurs to present borrowing requirements anonymously and competently to multiple lenders, thereby saving time, expense and travel problems. Lenders are able to respond to entrepreneurs via the platform, expressing their interest. An entrepreneur can then decide if he/she wishes to proceed by inviting the interested lender to sign a confidentiality agreement via the platform, which will grant the lender access to the details of the borrowing requirements. Thus, FINPOINT provides the entrepreneur with a convenient, user-friendly platform that facilitates ready access to competing credit offers without the embarrassment and intimidation often associated with borrowing, which is often the case especially for female entrepreneurs. FINPOINT facilitates bank marketing to SMEs and relieves credit staff from “hand holding” with the loan application process. It provides lenders with expanded market access by facilitating standardized information from potential customers. Improving the level of information that banks receive will significantly reduce the time they take to analyze loans, and lead to better lending decisions as both parties start communicating in the language of finance.
In order to increase financial inclusion in the MENA region and bring the billions of informal savings into the formal financial sector, we need to radically re-think and re-design the way we interact with the poor and un-banked and which products to offer. We need to develop savings services and products that are relevant and accessible for all.
The mobile phone delivery channel is an ideal platform to significantly reduce the costs per account for banks and for their clients. It has also proven to be an effective mechanism for governments to reduce the burden associated with cash payments for salaries, social welfare benefits and pensions. Around the world, a number of successful mobile-banking models have emerged during the last 5 - 10 years, each one characterized by the entity that establishes the relationship with the client, i.e. a Mobile Network Operator (MNO), a bank or a third party provider. No single framework has proven to be the ‘best’ approach in terms of business model, product focus or pricing and very much depends on the local context, the regulatory environment and the state of development and market power of respectively the mobile phone sector and the banking sector.
The recent developments in mobile technology together with our improved understanding of product design and savings habits of the un-banked are giving us today a golden opportunity to dramatically push the financial inclusion envelope by providing efficient savings and payments means to millions in the Middle East and North Africa and thereby include them in the formal financial sector. By combining our skills in the areas of technology and financial inclusion, our mission is to dramatically enhance financial inclusion in the MENA region by making appropriate savings services and products available to the poor and un-banked by making use of mobile phone technology.