Last night, just two nights before my trip to Bangladesh to engage on a project to help bring the poor into financial inclusion, I ran upon a Frontline program on the predatory practices of banks around credit. During this program, Frontline interviewed various lobbyists, government politicians, consumer advocates, and other industry specialists regarding the 24,000% annualized interest fees associated with “courtesy” overdrafts, the changing interest rates on cards, and the exploitative payday loans/check cashing businesses… all of these services target the poor.
My outrage grew as the program continued, and I began thinking of the work I do… to help bank the unbanked through mobile payments/banking services. As we target financial inclusion to the next billion people with little money, we mobile payments professionals have a moral obligation NOT to copy the predatory practices that our banking system has firmly instilled in the west. In our race for profit, let us not forget that our hope is to lift these people out of poverty, not bring them into further financial collapse through lack of fee transparency and ease of credit. We have an obligation not just to provide the services, but to provide transparent ones with financial literacy skills. I know this is a tall order, but if we do not focus on these, we will indeed be replicating a system that is designed to exploit the poor, rather than to help them.
To view the program, go to this link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/creditcards/?utm_campaign=homepage&utm_medium=proglist&utm_source=proglist