Earlier this month, I attended CFSI’s Emerge Conference and as part of that event, participated in the FinX experience. A great event that brings together people who work in the financial services field and takes what is all too often an abstract topic and makes it real. CFSI provides participants with the very real and unfortunately difficult task of accessing financial services without a bank account.
Charged with cashing a payroll check, a personal check, sending and receiving money and purchasing a prepaid card, our team found that not only is is difficult to access such services, it’s time consuming and existing outlets cannot be relied upon to offer the services that they purport to offer. To complete these tasks, we visited a major bank branch, a gas station, 3 convenience stores, a payday lender, and a title loan company.
Simply put, it’s hard, frustrating and expensive. Imagine if in order to complete these simple and routine financial tasks, you had to spend two plus hours navigating six or seven different outlets and at the end were still left without the money wired to you because the terminal was down and were unable to purchase a prepaid card because none of the outlets offered any for purchase. And in the midst of this, you had a job to get to, bills that needed to be paid, children to drop off at day care or school or be on time for a doctor’s appointment. Would you be able to allocate that much time in your day to access your money and pay bills? How would the need to do this affect your overall day?
Why does this matter?
It matters because the people who most need access to affordable and accessible financial products and services are not getting them. If we are honest with ourselves, then we need to face the fact that even with the advent of innovative FinTech products and services, we are not meeting the needs of consumers with limited financial resources and have a long way to go. We can do better.
It matters because 57 percent of American’s are struggling financially and and 43 percent of Americans describe themselves as having a hard time paying bills and credit payments. When living pay check to paycheck (and over half of Americans do), simple unexpected costs or mishaps create significant roadblocks to financial health.
And yes, there are some great, affordable financial products and services out there but the reality remains—those products and services are still not reaching those that need it most.
Participating in the FinX experience should be mandatory for all of us working in this field. It brings clarity and empathy to the experience of the unbanked. And it provides a whole lot of motivation to get to work and make things better. And that’s what we are doing at SpringFour.