Money is more than math. It affects, and is affected by, every aspect of human life: one’s gender, health, education, family culture, social status, and the ability and freedom to imagine and plan for the future. Truly effective financial services are those designed around their target customers’ deepest aspirations and the social and economic realities of their current circumstances. Even financial products that are brilliantly designed from a technical standpoint can fail—unless they are designed with end users’ actual needs and aspirations at the center.
For migrants, remittances are about much more than transferring money from point A to point B. They are the primary means through which migrants support their families to meet basic needs and build a better future. Despite the expense, risks and inconvenience of dealing in cash to send remittances, the force of habit and the value of the tried and true are powerful, especially when the family’s money is at stake.
That is why we have adapted an inclusive approach to innovating remittances. Migrants are centric in our approach, both as consumers and as builders of inclusive remittances. We believe that when we innovate differently—that is, by and for migrants—the innovation outcomes will be different, more responsive to women and men migrants’ needs and will spur consumer adoption. We promote human-centered and gender-smart design techniques to ensure that financial service providers can pilot and scale products that keep the physical, social and financial lives of migrants and families, rather than distribution structure and costs, at the center. This migrant-centric focus will increase the uptake of remittance-linked digital financial services including insurance, pensions, and credit for access to education, energy, health, water, and livelihood purposes. It makes sense for financial services for migrants to be linked to remittances, both because remittances are such a universal feature of the migrant experience and due to the extensive distribution network remittance service providers already have in place.
UNCDF is also working to empower the migrant customer. We intend to work with remittances service providers and policy makers to build integrated financial services and guidelines that promote and protect migrants’ (specifically women’s) access to, voice & choice in, and control over remittances services throughout the customer journey. Women migrants may experience additional challenges and risks at various stages in their life cycle when accessing and using financial services. These challenges and risks block women’s uptake and usage of financial services, and include challenges with identification, proximity and freedom of movement, and basic financial and digital literacy. These gender-specific challenges can be addressed by non-financial services and innovative delivery channels. Effective responses might involve building migrants’ digital and financial literacy, building respectful and trustworthy relationships between the migrant customer and remittances stakeholders across the ecosystem, and developing consumer protection principles. All of these vital services, financial, social and otherwise, help build resilience: the ability to prepare for setbacks and recover from them more quickly and completely.