Why use accounts: Understanding account usage through a consumer lens

Over the past five years, the move towards digital financial services and simplified account opening procedures has improved the take-up of accounts by the poor. The 2014 Global Findex data highlighted that the number of people without access to formal accounts decreased from 2.5 billion in 2011 to 2 billion in 2014 (Demirguc-Kunt, Klapper, Singer, & Van Oudheusden, 2015). Whilst recognised as a major achievement, it is clear amongst the global community that account ownership alone is not, in itself, the goal of financial inclusion.

The World Bank has encapsulated this objective in their target of universal financial access by 2020 (UFA2020, 2016). Their vision is for adults to have access to a transaction account or an electronic instrument to store money, send payments and receive deposits as the basic building block to manage their financial lives. The ultimate goal beyond this initiative is to reduce the world’s poverty and increase prosperity (World Bank, 2016).

But how to achieve this goal? Clearly accounts will need to add value to people’s lives to have any impact on poverty or prosperity. This can only be achieved if we understand what people value in accounts and what drives them to use accounts.

This report explores what drives the usage of mobile money and bank accounts. By looking through the consumer lens it seeks to understand what the triggers, drivers and barriers to unlock usage are.

Interventions to rectify low usage of accounts in the past have focused on the provider lens, and on improving the environment within which accounts are available and taken up. However, while the provider is an important factor, it is ultimately the consumers? decision-making framework that determines whether they use their accounts or not. Thus understanding this consumer lens is critical to discovering what ultimately drives usage.

This note includes recommendations for policymakers and providers on how to unlock usage to extend both client and firm value for sustainable inclusion.