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Financial inclusion is foundational to financial security and global economic progress.
Financial inclusion means individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services to meet their needs—from savings, credit, and insurance to education and advice—and that these tools are delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
As an organization focused on helping more people access financial security, we believe inclusion is an integral component of a market’s ability to prepare for and recover from adversity, grow sustainably, and build a brighter future. As global economies continue to grapple with the ongoing impact of the pandemic, war in Ukraine, commodity scarcity, and rising inflation, the challenge of fostering financial inclusion around the world has never been more relevant or urgent.
As a key step in helping address this challenge, we partnered with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to develop a robust measurement framework to track financial inclusion on a global scale—the Global Financial Inclusion Index (Index). In our inaugural year, we discovered several interesting insights on a market-by-market basis. Overall, very few markets score consistently high across all three pillars (government, financial system, and employer support). Even in the top ranked economies, there are still identifiable weak points. This suggests there is a significant opportunity to provide greater support to enable financial inclusion across all pillars. The scores in each pillar serve as an initial benchmark against which the Index will measure progress on a regular basis.
So, how do we move the needle? When considering the data holistically, three main takeaways stand out as integral to improving financial inclusion around the world.
Responsibility for a market’s financial inclusion cannot be shouldered by one system; it lies in finding a balance between government, financial system, and employer support.
Strengths and weaknesses in these systems vary, but a balance of public and private sector support is crucial to ensure a financially inclusive society which can drive broader economic growth and productivity.
The Index showed markets that provide strong support from the government and the financial system tend to provide a lower level of employer support—and vice versa. Only five markets out of 42—Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong, Finland, and Norway—ranked in the top 15 across every pillar analyzed. Only Hong Kong ranks in the top 10 across every pillar.
The financial system must address its perception problem.
Despite the Index demonstrating how a well-functioning financial system can benefit financial inclusion in a market, the survey results on how people perceive the industry tell a different story. There is a large gap between how the Index ranks markets on the impact of the financial system on inclusion versus how individuals in each market feel they are included in the financial system. We interpret this to mean there’s little understanding about the role, actions, and contributions of financial companies in driving financial security. As an industry, we must better communicate how the products and services we develop can help people protect and grow their financial well-being, and consider what additional support we can offer to help ensure these solutions are relevant and useful.
Improving financial inclusion can help combat wider societal concerns.
The United Nations identifies financial inclusion as an enabler for economic growth as well as a key component in several of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We dug deeper into this by analyzing the Global Financial Inclusion Index against indices which track some of the most significant forces facing society today: food security, standards of living, and climate change, to name a few. The strong positive correlations within the research encourage us to consider how improving access to relevant financial tools, services, and advice might help markets make progress against other societal concerns such as hunger, climate resiliency, and overall health and well-being.
As we look ahead, the Index will enable Principal® and our partners to take a more nuanced and informed approach to financial inclusion as a core component of financial security. We will track over time how financial inclusion increases or decreases around the world. The use of data-driven insights will allow a clearer understanding of the barriers to financial security and produce alternative pathways that broaden access to financial solutions and support.
Principal believes financial systems should help enable long-term financial security for more people and businesses. The Index’s holistic analysis across the three pillars of support will help us to identify the structural gaps in financial inclusion globally and how to address them, thereby building a more productive and protected workforce and society. We intend to use this research to determine impactful collaboration opportunities to help drive positive change and will actively engage and encourage others to do the same.
Gain more insights from the Global Financial Inclusion Index.
The Global Financial Inclusion Index is a proprietary model output based upon certain assumptions that may change, are not guaranteed, and should not be relied upon as a significant basis for an investment decision.
Principal Global Investors leads global asset management at Principal®.
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