Billion reasons to bank inclusively

Customizing banking services for the world’s unbanked population


More than a third of the world’s adult population make little or no use of formal financial services. Accenture estimates that bringing unbanked adults and businesses into the formal banking sector could generate about $380 billion in new revenues for banks.

The majority of this population are found in low- and middle-income emerging markets. And even in high-income countries, large numbers of people don’t use banks to help meet their day-to-day financial needs.

With income levels growing, financial inclusion is now on the agenda for public and private financial institutions. The time is right for banks to take advantage of the unbanked and underbanked market, by changing their current operating model and customer offerings, to effectively serve this fast-growing, lucrative market.

Why banks should act now:

Access to new revenues. Banks can improve their annual revenues significantly by:

  • Closing the small business credit gap at average lending spreads and conservative estimates of fee-based services.

  • Including unbanked adults in the formal financial system, and raising their financial services spending levels. Social dividends. Banks on the forefront of financial inclusion for low-income consumers will be well-positioned to reap both economic and goodwill value in return.

70 percent of microenterprises have a bank account but only 5 percent have access to term loans from banks and 1 percent to working capital loans from banks.

Key Findings

What unbanked and underbanked customers need:

  • Easy access: Because physical banking infrastructures are expensive to develop, alternative distribution approaches are emerging. The most powerful of these may be mobile financial services.

  • Appropriate products: Available financial services also means available at the right price and design—affordable for low-income customers and relevant to their needs.

  • Attractive to use: Products and services that effectively address the dormant tendencies of low-income consumers.

More than 80 percent of retail banking customers bank online - a shift yielding profitable partnerships and more compelling business models for banks.


Banks must seize the financial inclusion opportunity by focusing on key action points:

  • Define a clear strategy to serve the mass market segment as long-term commercially viable business.

  • Create a simple, needs-based product set—transact, save, borrow, invest and protect. Multiple customer use cases built on an open platform that are affordable, transparent and include activity-based pricing.

  • Build low-cost branches, taking advantage of hub and spoke servicing. Extend agent network with correspondent branches and agents.

  • Create simple banking processes. Focus on customer needs and financial education. Enable customer self-servicing and instant/rapid customer fulfillment.

  • Target straight-through processing with zero back office. Automate controls and risk decision-making. Introduce digital customer credit and identification analytics.

  • Extend customer reach through third-party partner and agent management.

  • Digitize and automate processes. Ensure mobile and digital-first enablement. Create a just-in-time model with flexible, low-cost, managed services. Use big data and analytics extensively.