The inaugural Underbanked Financial Services Forum uncovered innovative strategies that are being implemented, studied and honed while the industry continues in an experimental phase in figuring out how to reach the underbanked. Reaching this segment is a long-term proposition for the banks, money service businesses, vendors, credit unions and nonprofits involved, and a convergence of these players will likely lead to a whole new way of understanding what profitable and accessible financial services can look like for the underbanked. These products can help get consumers into the financial services marketplace in ways that provide entrees into asset-building opportunities.
Traditional ways of doing business will not work in serving this segment—new business models must emerge, leading to the development of firms that are neither banks, nor money service businesses, but something in between. And especially at this experimental stage of development, there is a role for all types of firms to play. The Forum showed that there is value in bringing together a cross-section of the industry to share ideas and approaches and to find partners. Moreover, there is value in organizing around the concept of an underbanked market, which is just as relevant to the industry as any other subsegment. In the end, as Forum participants explained in presentation after presentation, this is not work that can be done off the corner of the desk. Reaching the underbanked with a variety of products, from transactional to investment vehicles, requires the same kind of care, attention and investment that other segments need.