The Mastercard Foundation Financial Inclusion 2015

Post-Summit Report with the Boulder Institute of Microfinance

Watch an introduction to some of the issues discussed at this year’s Symposium on Financial Inclusion

In Review: The 2015 Mastercard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion

Dear SoFI2015 attendees,

We are pleased to share with you this report on The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion 2015, held in partnership with the Boulder Institute of Microfinance in Cape Town.

The Symposium theme of Clients at the Centre led us to dive deeper into the client experience, explore how leadership and organizational culture can contribute to delivering client value, and demonstrate how that value can contribute to the business case for service providers.

The push towards universal inclusion has reached a pivotal point – the number of people without access has fallen to two billion. The 2020 goals set by the World Bank, or the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, will only be achieved if banks and other financial service providers adopt or strengthen customer-centric practices. There is much more work to do and it is up to us to lead change within our organizations. We need to put clients at the centre of everything we do in order to increase regular use of products and services by those living in poverty in developing countries.

We hope that those of you who attended the Symposium had the opportunity to connect and to share what you are learning. We also hope that you came away inspired and prepared to take action to effect change in your organization, enabling it to become more client-centric.

We look forward to the next Symposium and encourage you to stay in touch with us, and with each other. We hope you continue to share your ideas on how we can advance financial inclusion for the benefit of clients and their families.

Ann Miles
Financial Inclusion &
Youth Livelihoods
The MasterCard Foundation

Robert Christen
President and Founding Member,
Boulder Institute of Microfinance

Clients at the Centre

In 2015, The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion brought together more than 300 of the world’s leading financial practitioners and experts on financial inclusion in Cape Town, South Africa. Attendees shared their experiences in connecting people with financial services that improve their livelihoods and support economic development.

The Symposium was structured around three themes:

  • How leaders motivate employee behaviour and internal culture to ensure their organization is focused on delivering client value.
  • Key dropout points along the client journey and consideration of what stakeholders can do to improve the customer experience.
  • Business-case development for client centricity for service providers.

In her welcome address, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation Reeta Roy said that to become truly client-centric, the sector must focus on the emotional value of financial products and services for clients.

“If we understand the lives of the people our organizations serve,” she said, “if we understand that financial services enable them to send their children to school, put food on the table, and save, we can design products that are truly relevant. And we will reach the remaining people who lack access.”

In Robert Christen’s welcome address, the President and Founding Member of the Boulder Institute of Microfinance said that if the sector doesn’t confront business challenges, it will begin to have significant problems.

“Becoming more focused on the client makes good business sense,” he said. “The future belongs to understanding the client more deeply for the first time.”

Debate: Microfinance institutions will be the primary provider for excluded groups

The Symposium debate pitched microfinance institutions against tech companies proposing that microfinance institutions (MFIs) are best positioned to be the primary provider of financial products and services for excluded groups.

After an energetic opening from moderator Khalil Shariff, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation, the audience voted on the proposition. In this initial audience vote, most attendees believed that MFIs would not be the primary service providers to reach excluded groups.


BRAC’s Director of Microfinance Shameran Abed and IFC’s David Crush led the argument for the ‘for’ team, by outlining four reasons MFIs would succeed.

  1. MFIs are already focused exclusively on poor clients.
  2. This focus provides a key advantage in understanding and serving this segment.
  3. MFIs are trusted by poor communities.
  4. MFIs are innovative, they have evolved beyond microcredit and offer a full suite of services. This will keep them relevant in a digitally-enabled world.

Crush said that the poor need social capital and financial literacy, and MFIs will provide that for them. He also delivered one of the most memorable lines from the lively debate, “If you throw enough digital spaghetti at the wall, some of it will stick.”


Umati Capital’s Munyutu Waigi and KCB Bank Kenya’s Samuel Makome argued that microfinance institutions have not reached scale and only reach a fraction of clients at the base of the pyramid.

Makome also argued that customers need convenience, access and speed, and a high-touch, low-tech solution to meet those needs. He criticized microfinance institutions for being too “inward looking.”

At the close of the debate the ‘for’ team prevailed, with the majority of the audience agreeing that MFIs will be the primary provider meeting the financial service needs and expectations of excluded groups in a digitally-enabled world. Both teams agreed that microfinance institutions and tech companies should work together to better reach and serve excluded groups.


The Clients at the Centre Prize

The MasterCard Foundation’s first Clients at the Centre Prize was decided and announced at the 2015 Symposium.

The US$150,000 prize is awarded to an organization working in financial inclusion in developing countries that best ensures client needs are central to business strategy.

More than 125 organizations in 40 countries applied and were judged on the following criteria:

  • A client-centric focus
  • Evidence of success
  • Long-term impact, sustainability and scalability
  • Novelty in designing client-centric products or services
  • An understanding of market and context

Symposium attendees heard pitches from BIMA Mobile’s Mathilda Strom, Buusaa Gonofaa Microfinance Share Company’s Teshome Dayesso, and Pesatransact’s Frederik Ejikman. The audience voted on the most client-centric organization based on the finalist pitch, awarding the Clients at the Centre prize to BIMA Mobile.

The prize recognized the company’s innovative work in providing mobile-delivered micro-insurance and health services to 20 million customers in 14 emerging markets.

Client Prize

Looking Forward

At the Foundation, our Financial Inclusion projects expand access to financial services for people living in poverty, particularly those living in rural and remote areas. The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion brings together global leaders in the field to hear about best practices, to advocate for client-centric practices and to share lessons learned. We look forward to the 2016 Symposium where we will deepen the understanding of the client experience and continue to put Clients at the Centre of our work.