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The future of finance in LatAm & the Caribbean

Closing the gender gap, a pending task in financial inclusion

Feb 3, 2021

By Fabiola Seminario
Gender gap
The financial sector continues to create spaces for inclusion, but there are still important - and urgent - challenges to digitize the base of the pyramid and address the adoption gap between men and women


About 65% of those who use Banco del Barrio, a non-banking correspondent channel provided by Banco Guayaquil in Ecuador, are women. However, the bank’s initial advertising used mostly male figures in ad campaigns, as they assumed that most bankers were men.

The new finding made them want to uncover other stereotypes, to address them. They found that loan approval rates are slightly higher for men than for women, despite the fact that male customers have a higher delinquency rate.

Although financial inclusion in Latin America has made significant progress this past year, there are still a number of important challenges, particularly to bridge the existing gender gap in the adoption of financial services and to provide digital solutions to low-income populations.

The economic contrast in the region is significant. The industry faces multiple challenges, such as the need to generate new formats for customer acquisition and digital onboarding, especially in those countries where governments have encouraged the use of digital channels among the population, during the pandemic.

“I believe that, right now, that’s where we have to focus. There is a great opportunity in inclusion for women,” said Rodrigo Andrade, VP Personal & SMB Banking at Banco Guayaquil, at the Latin America Financial Inclusion Forum, a private event hosted by iupana and SafetyPay.


Cash deposit fees, and other challenges

The cost of digitizing cash – especially small amounts from the region’s most disadvantaged economies – is also creating barriers for inclusion.

In Mexico, for example, there are no regulations in place to reduce these fees, which means that these solutions are not available to the bottom of the pyramid, which, on average, must pay a fee of USD $1 to make cash deposits, according to data from kubo.financiero, a fintech for personal loans and investments.

For large amounts, this fee may not be a significant commission – but it may be for small deposits from the informal economy, which is prevalent in the region.

How are leading companies addressing these and other financial inclusion challenges? What were the biggest lessons learned in this matter during 2020? What opportunities lie ahead for financial inclusion?

The Financial Inclusion in Latin America: Key takeaways from the pandemic White Paper, released today, examines these questions, and highlights key insights from iupana and SafetyPay‘s Financial Inclusion Forum.

This report explores seven leading financial sector executives’ perspectives on how they have experienced dramatic changes in inclusion, and today, they lay out a roadmap for financial participation in the future.

The Forum participants were:

• Gustavo Ruiz, SafetyPay CEO
• Vicente Fenoll, kubo.financiero CEO
• Rafa de la Guia, Quona Capital director
• Alicia Ferrer, Senior Investment Officer at International Finance Corporation (IFC)
• Federico Gómez Romero, Accion Venture Lab
• Rodrigo Andrade, personal & SME Banking VP at Banco Guayaquil
• Hamish Wood, Country Manager at Superdigital

Download full report here.

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