The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Philanthropy 2.0 – FinTech, the responsible inclusion revolution

FinTech as a service model is growing in scale at a phenomenal rate, matched only by the tempo of technological breakthroughs that continue to advance the industry. Its success is attracting attention from the investment community in Chicago, a city long a proponent of innovation in the U.S, in Europe, Latin America and also throughout Africa, with Johannesburg serving as a region we at Opportunity International and MyBucks are proud to call a virtual and often hands-on base of operations.  

We now see active participants from within traditional ‘brick and mortar’ institutions ‘jumping ship’ to take part in the finance industry‘s quantum leap, with FinTech equivalent of comparing morse code to telephone.

{mosads}This dynamic shift in investment and participatory interest is captivating, especially against the backdrop of many more traditional banking institutions presently going through an existential predicament of sorts, one often associated with a lack of innovation, a conservative nature and opaque infrastructure. Indeed these institutions are seen as in need of clear and present philanthropy or a tangible methodology of giving back.

And this shift permeates from the industry of finance to the business of giving back; to philanthropy itself.

Policy-makers, economists and global authorities on the subject have begun espousing a new school of thought regarding public or private charitable organizations and their ability to affect lasting change. Unfortunately and all too often, funds from these enterprises set to be relegated to pertinent issues such as the alleviation of extreme poverty, gender empowerment and financial illiteracy (as but examples) are not efficiently reaching their target communities in practice.

This deficit in accountability and social impact occurs for reasons that vary, but nonetheless stirs controversy and perpetuates these global problems.

And while leading banking institutions and such charitable enterprises look to shift gears and re-evaluate approaches in their service offering, the revolution goes on. Recent analytics indicate that FinTech companies are estimated to capture 17 percent of banking revenues by 2023; this is not-coincidentally happening at a time when American and European banks are cutting back on the number of physical branches that they offer. Approximately six out of ten long-established institutions have stated that they are interested in partnering with a FinTech provider, on a collaborative basis or through acquisition.

The rationale for this dramatic shift is simple, compelling and one in which we speak from experience  – you can be successful in business while also tangibly transforming lives. And while FinTech’s deployment across Africa, for example, is an offering attractive to international partnerships, the service is also and more importantly, a CSR exercise in and of itself, if undertaken responsibly.

In Africa for example, FinTech provides empowerment, equality and ‘a fighting chance’ through financial inclusion, while allowing Opportunity International, its FinTech partner MyBucks, and others, to develop in reach and scale.

And the needs are inherent – Research published by McKinsey shows that approximately 2 and a half billion adults worldwide don’t use formal banks or semiformal microfinance institutions to save or borrow money. Almost 2.2 billion of these adults are in Africa, with many disillusioned as excluded by the traditional financial system and as they are unable to contribute to or benefit from the global financial marketplace due to lack of sheer access.

Yet a good majority of these individuals, both affluent and poverty-stricken alike, are still able to take advantage of technology’s global penetration and actively dialogue via social media or SMS text in their daily lives. And, with the arrival of solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspots and government or private sector-backed e-libraries bringing greater connectivity, more and more prospective FinTech consumers are coming online.

However, many users believe that they would still not be able to benefit from Financial Technology, as they have never banked before. Fortunately, cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is correcting this, allowing them to ‘start from scratch’. Credit is granted through A.I. procedures that provide detailed background analysis, offering the prospect of building up loan capital incrementally. This service is an endeavor backed by technology yet wholly rooted in goodwill.

Certain traditional banks and social enterprises alike have led by example and taken notice of FinTech’s development and deployment, acknowledging the multifaceted pros and limited cons to integrating with providers. They are also attracted to a system that offers a built-in marketplace due to the budding advent and vast dissemination of ‘Big Data’ and its intrinsic philanthropy. These FinTech endeavors provide access to a diverse customer base one cannot always cater to ‘on the surface’ – however, these are millions of families, small businesses and rural communities across the continent and each ready to contribute to the global financial sector.

Indeed financial transformation in Africa can come without fine print or ‘customer’ exclusion. The unbanked and under-banked, long denied today near-fundamental admission to financial autonomy, now have tangible and lasting opportunities via technology, including real-time loans, the provision of insurance and virtual bank accounts, as pilot examples.

It’s a social onus of responsibility that enterprises such as ours do not nor should not take lightly.  For the revolution is already ‘televised’ with regard to the FinTech industry; we aren’t collectively ‘having our moment’; we are together stewarding the moment of the financial service industry on the whole, while committing proudly to an international community program unlike any other.

The ‘opportunity’ that comes along via partnering with firms like MyBucks explains the support Opportunity International is already witnessing from the intrepid investment community in Chicago, in London and around the world.

It also shows that tech can truly transform lives as a force for potent social change, while also being an attractive business model.

Dave Van Niekerk is the Founder / Chief Executive Officer of the acclaimed MyBucks organization; Vicki Escarra is the Global CEO of the world-renowned Opportunity International non-profit social enterprise. The views expressed are their own.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 


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