Reeta Roy: Opening Remarks at The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion


The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion

Opening Remarks by Reeta Roy

November 19, 2015

Cape Town, South Africa



Let me acknowledge President of the Boulder Institute for Microfinance, Bob Christen and his great partnership.

Doug Baillie, Chief Human Resources Officer at Unilever and member of the MasterCard Foundation Board of Directors.

Distinguished speakers and experts.

Colleagues and friends.

Good morning and welcome to The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion.


It is wonderful to see all of you here in Cape Town.

We are gathering at a pivotal time for financial inclusion.

Earlier this year, the World Bank announced that the number of people who are financially excluded in the world fell from 2.5 billion to two billion.

This dramatic reduction demonstrates that the leadership and hard work of many of you is paying off.

Worldwide, political commitment rising.  More countries have created financial inclusion strategies and set targets.

It’s widely recognized that financial inclusion is an enabler of several of the new Sustainable Development Goals, most notably the quest to end extreme poverty.

Increasingly, digital payments infrastructure is in place. Technology will continue to be a huge driver enabling us to reduce costs and make financial services accessible.

qually important, we see transformative business models are emerging – many represented by companies in this room.

Collectively, these are signs that point to the fact that financial inclusion is within reach.

Governments and business are stepping up to achieve Universal Financial Access by 2020.  This goal envisions the 2 billion people who remain excluded will have access to an account or electronic device to store, send and receive money. Technology will be instrumental in driving access.

I must call out MasterCard – the company that created our Foundation – for committing to reach 500 million unbanked clients by 2020.

Momentum is building. Progress has been impressive. What now?

I think you will agree we have more work ahead of us. It’s time to increase access as well as usage of financial services.

Now more than ever, now is the time to ensure we put Clients at the Center.

Client Centricity

If we are to reach 2 billion we need to see and understand the client.

Who is the client?  What does she need and want? What is her day like? Is she a farmer? A migrant? A domestic worker?  Is her greatest barrier the distance she has to travel?  Is it literacy? Is it confidence?  Or that she doesn’t see herself as a financial services client?

recent article in Harvard Business Review observed that client-centered organizations have a deep empathy for the people who use their products and services.

These organizations do not speak in transactional terms.  Instead, they use emotional language to describe the desires, aspirations, and experiences of their customers.

Each of us understands client-centricity in a personal way.  As consumers of multiple products and services that we use every day. When was the last time you were thrilled or delighted by a product or service you used?  When the product felt personalized.  Intuitive and easy to use.  Convenient.  Available when you needed it.

Was it at a hotel?  In your favorite store?  I know it wasn’t your airline!  At your bank?

To be a client is to be seen.  Acknowledged. Respected.  Understood.

As a sector, we focus on clients who live in difficult circumstances.  Who do not have an address.  Who are invisible to the financial system.

Stepping into their shoes is not easy.  Yet, understanding the emotional value they ascribe to savings accounts or loans is how we create value for them and for institutions that serve them.

At the Symposium, we’ll be learning from colleagues in other industries that invest in understanding the lives of their clients.  Industries that have oriented their business model meeting those needs.  Fast-moving consumer goods.  Technology companies. Health care.

We’ll also learn from leaders in financial inclusion organizations which have embraced a deep client-centered orientation.  Leaders that are running profitable and growing businesses.

Like Equity Bank.  I think James Mwangi is sitting right there. Equity Bank has turned the traditional banking model on its head.  Instead of viewing the poor as unbankable, Equity recognized early on that the “poor” are the market.

Equity calls its clients “members” -­- members of Equity Bank.

And, we’ll also hear from leaders such as Microcred, Janalakshmi and Cellulant.

The Foundation

At the Foundation, we believe so deeply in the agency of people who live in poverty.  Increasingly, our work and research in Financial Inclusion, and across the Foundation, thanks to our partnerships with many of you. We are going deeper into understanding the lives of the poor.  We are finding ways to elevate their voices and their views.  To shed light on their needs and preferences.

Later today, we will be launching, along a global data hub called Insight to Impact (i2i). We’re working together with Finmark Trust, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch this initiative. This hub will work with financial service providers to reveal how people use, and want to use, financial services. In turn this data, will help the sector to understand - and to serve - those clients better.

The Symposium

Since our last Symposium, many of you have made the lives of your clients more visible throughout your organization.

Over the next two days, I encourage you to think about how you can go further to fulfill the needs and desires of your clients.

Clients at the Centre Prize

You will hear from three inspiring people. Finalists of The MasterCard Foundation Clients at the Centre Prize.

This Prize shines a light on companies that have demonstrated the most innovative work and highly impactful way to meet the needs of its clients. You will hear from them. And, you will select a winner.


We have so many reasons to be optimistic as we gather at this Symposium.  We have the winds of inclusion behind us. We’re gaining ground.

We can do even better.   We have leaders among us, who are using client centricity to redefine financial inclusion.

Let’s take inspiration from them, and from each other.  Let’s have a great Symposium. Thank you.


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