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Sorry Millennials, TOMS Shoes Won’t Change the World

TOMS Shoes may be the quintessential Millennial company. Granted, it's not a Silicon Valley app maker, but it hits all the other Generation Y sweet spots: Hip, young CEO? Check. Participatory, social media-driven marketing? Check. Trendy, eco-friendly products? Check and check. A conspicuous focus on social responsibility? Big check. It's the latter point that has...

Can Government-led Financial Inclusion Work?

Based only on the headline numbers, India’s financial inclusion program seems like a remarkable success. Less than one year after Prime Minister Modi launched the financial inclusion initiative called Jan Dhan Yojana (Hindi for “People Money Scheme”), 158,600,000 bank accounts have been opened. This progress has garnered international headlines, and even set a Guinness World...

Overcharging the Poor: Why Do We Accept Banks’ Pricing Double Standard?

Consider this shopping horror story: You go to the supermarket to buy groceries, selecting your usual items. But when you arrive at the checkout line, the clerk asks for your annual income. Though the question seems rather intrusive, you tell her. As she begins scanning your purchases, you notice that each item has two price...

Are We Ready to be a Cashless Society? The Next Great Debate

For years, people have been predicting the demise of cash, and with all the buzz around Apple Pay and cryptocurrency, bills and coins do seem headed toward extinction. Yet in the past month, two tech icons have demonstrated cash's continued vital role in the modern payments landscape--both in the U.S. and in developing countries. At its New York Hackathon,...

Forget Apple Pay: 4 Futuristic Innovations That Could Transform How You Spend Money

For decades, the global payments industry was rather boring – or, if you prefer, “stable and predictable.” Payment cards have been the default alternative to cash since 1950, when Diners Club introduced a small card – made out of cardboard – that let people pay for travel and entertainment expenses. By the 80s, payment cards...

Three Reasons Banks Won’t Get “Uber-ized” – and One Reason they Actually Might

Everyone loves Uber – except for mistreated passengers, disgruntled drivers, local governments, certain tech journalists, and of course: the taxi companies disrupted by the popular ride-sharing app. Okay, perhaps “everyone” is a slight exaggeration. But in spite of its controversial reputation and recent PR troubles, Uber is on a roll. By the end of 2014,...

Want to Fight Poverty? Give Women Financial Equality.

It seems hard to believe, but as recently as the 1970s, it was still legal for U.S. banks to refuse to issue a credit card to a woman because of her gender, and to require a husbands’ permission before married women could get credit or start a business. Keep that context in mind as you consider the following statistics about women’s financial and economic rights and access in the developing...

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‘Free Banking’ is a Myth.  Why Won’t Banks Admit It?

Remember the days when most banks offered free checking accounts? The next generation probably won’t. To the annoyance of consumers, recent years have seen most leading banks curtail these accounts, or load them down with new restrictions. Nowadays, only 38% of checking accounts at big banks are free – down from 76% in 2009. In the words of one analyst, this amounts to "the steepest decline that I’ve ever seen,...

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China Renounces Socialism? Bank Nationalization Advocates Take Note…

There are few things more infuriating than public bailouts of private banks. That’s why, when banks get into trouble, many people would rather nationalize them entirely than rescue them. (In fact, after the 2008 crash, the U.S. reportedly came close to doing so.) But surprisingly, in India and China - two countries whose financial systems have long been dominated by public banks - the governments are responding to their current...

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Sorry Millennials, TOMS Shoes Won’t Change the World

TOMS Shoes may be the quintessential Millennial company. Granted, it's not a Silicon Valley app maker, but it hits all the other Generation Y sweet spots: Hip, young CEO? Check. Participatory, social media-driven marketing? Check. Trendy, eco-friendly products? Check and check. A conspicuous focus on social responsibility? Big check. It's the latter point that has driven the company's success. TOMS Shoes' social element isn't just window dressing, it's the heart...

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Can Government-led Financial Inclusion Work?

Based only on the headline numbers, India’s financial inclusion program seems like a remarkable success. Less than one year after Prime Minister Modi launched the financial inclusion initiative called Jan Dhan Yojana (Hindi for “People Money Scheme”), 158,600,000 bank accounts have been opened. This progress has garnered international headlines, and even set a Guinness World Record for the most new accounts opened in one week (18,096,130 between August 23 and...

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Overcharging the Poor: Why Do We Accept Banks’ Pricing Double Standard?

Consider this shopping horror story: You go to the supermarket to buy groceries, selecting your usual items. But when you arrive at the checkout line, the clerk asks for your annual income. Though the question seems rather intrusive, you tell her. As she begins scanning your purchases, you notice that each item has two price tags on it, one white and one red. The white tags reflect the regular prices,...

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Three Reasons to be Excited About the “Internet of Things” – and Three Reasons to be Very Afraid

Imagine the following scenario: Your neighbors have a loud party and you get a bad night’s sleep. But your bed detects your tossing and turning and takes action. It checks your schedule for the coming day, sets your alarm clock back an hour, then instructs your coffee maker to brew an extra-strong cup which is waiting for you when you get up. You put on a gray work shirt, which...

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Are We Ready to be a Cashless Society? The Next Great Debate

For years, people have been predicting the demise of cash, and with all the buzz around Apple Pay and cryptocurrency, bills and coins do seem headed toward extinction. Yet in the past month, two tech icons have demonstrated cash's continued vital role in the modern payments landscape--both in the U.S. and in developing countries. At its New York Hackathon, TechCrunch Disrupt awarded an app that bypasses ATMs by broadcasting cash requests to nearby users,...

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Forget Apple Pay: 4 Futuristic Innovations That Could Transform How You Spend Money

For decades, the global payments industry was rather boring – or, if you prefer, “stable and predictable.” Payment cards have been the default alternative to cash since 1950, when Diners Club introduced a small card – made out of cardboard – that let people pay for travel and entertainment expenses. By the 80s, payment cards had assumed their current form, function and ubiquity, and to this day, they dominate the...

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Three Reasons Banks Won’t Get “Uber-ized” – and One Reason they Actually Might

Everyone loves Uber – except for mistreated passengers, disgruntled drivers, local governments, certain tech journalists, and of course: the taxi companies disrupted by the popular ride-sharing app. Okay, perhaps “everyone” is a slight exaggeration. But in spite of its controversial reputation and recent PR troubles, Uber is on a roll. By the end of 2014, it was six times bigger than it was when the year began, and it continues...

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The Wrong Kind of “Kodak Moment”- Will Big Banks Become the Next Victims of Tech Disruption

Mention the phrase “a Kodak moment” to a Baby Boomer, and you’ll likely to be greeted with a knowing smile. Say the same thing to a Millennial, and you’ll likely see a blank stare. Used for decades to refer to photo-worthy moments, this once popular phrase signals how thoroughly Kodak once dominated the photography space. Kodak first introduced cameras to the masses in 1888, and built its business into a...

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An Optimistic Statistic that Could Unlock Greater Happiness for Millions of Americans

The following quotes were taken from a website where people can anonymously share their life experiences. Try to guess which experience they’re describing: “Every time I tell someone … they disappear from view and [I] never hear from them again.” “The one thing that bothers me the most is the lying and covering up I have to do.…I'm too embarrassed to tell my friends - but on the other hand I want...

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“Banksters” vs. “Banktivists”: The Battle That Could Determine Our Economic Future

The term “bankster” has an interesting history. A combination of “banker” and “gangster,” it was first popularized in the throes of the Great Depression, when a tenacious, cigar-chomping prosecutor led tumultuous Senate hearings on the causes of the 1929 crash. The hearings became something of a media circus, as some of the richest bankers in America were raked over the coals for their role in the stock market collapse. At...

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The $17 Trillion Stimulus: 3 Key Reasons to Fight Poverty Among Women

The question of how to help the poor is the subject of endless debate. But there’s a topic within the debate that should inspire universal agreement: the importance of reducing the toll of poverty among women and girls. In a world where females comprise the majority of the over 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, and 1 in 3 American women are either poor or living on the brink,...

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ATM Innovations Will Transform the Way We Bank

Changes are afoot in the ATM tech space. Take a look at these innovations changing the way we use ATMs around the world. Did you know there are now ATM machines in India and the Philippines that dispense clean water instead of cash? Or that ATMs in the near future will be equipped with germ-fighting glass to prevent the spread of disease? How about ATMs with LCD panels that can be...

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4 Ways Banks Can Win Back Millennials (and the rest of us)

Newsflash: Millennials don’t like banks. And everyone in the banking industry needs to take at look at Viacom’s recent Millennial Disruption Index. The company surveyed over 10,000 U.S. Millennials about 73 companies spanning 15 industries, to determine which industries are ripe for disruptive change. Here’s what Millennials said: In five years, roughly 70% of Millennials expect to be accessing their money and making payments in a totally different way. 73%...

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Raising the Stakes: Borrowing to Save

If you’ve ever had a hard time sticking to a diet, quitting a bad habit or finishing a project, you might recognize yourself in the scrolling list of user-submitted goals found on stickK.com. People have committed to losing weight, to spending more time with their families, to stop biting their nails, and to finish writing their novels. Ranging from mundane to poignant – and sometimes uncomfortably familiar – these resolutions...

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Socially Conscious Banking

Alerting all banks! Last month, Cisco released a global customer survey revealing some alarming news for banks. In the 12 countries surveyed, nearly one in four bank customers intend to choose another provider for their next financial product or service. And four out of five would trust a non-bank to handle their banking needs. But perhaps the most noteworthy finding was this: almost 30 percent of bank customers do not...

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The Credit Scoring Industry is Ripe for Disruption

Last fall, a few months after leaving his job as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke tried to refinance his mortgage. In spite of his prior position, a recent seven-figure book deal and the ability to earn a quarter-million dollars for giving a single speech, the bank turned him down for the loan. The amount: less than what he’d earn with three speeches. Bernanke’s experience highlights flaws in a...

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5 Challenges Facing Banks in the Digital Age

You’ve probably heard the statistic – 2.5 billion of the world’s adults don’t use formal financial services, including roughly 60% of adults in developing economies. With the challenges of reaching those markets profitably, most banks have traditionally focused their efforts elsewhere. But in Kenya, financial inclusion has grown from under 30% to over 65% in less than 10 years – due not to banks, but to M-Pesa, Safaricom’s wildly popular...

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Two Countries, Two Approaches to Mobile Payments

Mobile payments have become the latest battleground in the ongoing struggle for market share between America’s retail and tech heavyweights. Check out the latest headlines: Apple vs Walmart: Mobile Payments Reveal A Clash Of Titans Twitter Launches Mobile Payments Before Facebook Google And Softcard Versus Apple Pay: Benefits Are Overstated There’s a reason why so many major players want a piece of the same pie. Though exact estimates vary, a large...

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The Link Between Human Behavior and Poor Financial Decisions

Want some unexpected advice from iconic high-achievers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama? Wear the same clothes each day. It turns out that Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt, Obama’s highly predictable blue or grey suits, and Jobs’ iconic black turtleneck and jeans are about more than just branding or personal style. They represent strategic efforts to maximize mental bandwidth. As Obama put it, “I don't want to make decisions about...

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The Perils of Debt

When Americans hear the words “debt crisis,” they tend to think of public debt. With regular headlines and perpetual finger-pointing over which party or politician is responsible for it, America’s national debt is a well-known $18 trillion problem. However some analysts are more disturbed by a parallel debt crisis that often flies under the radar – the country’s spiraling household debt. The statistics are formidable. Americans have well over $11...

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Empowering Customers

Imagine the following scenario: after going without a bank account her entire life, a poor Pakistani woman establishes a checking account to accept government support payments. She takes her new debit card to the local ATM to withdraw some cash for the first time. After entering her PIN three times without success, the machine swallows her card on the assumption that she was trying to use it fraudulently. If you...

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Ideas to Bank On

The term “financial innovation” often gets a bad rap, and it’s understandable. It tends to be associated with investor-focused innovations like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations – two of the primary culprits behind the 2008 financial crisis. But in recent years, many big banks have turned their focus towards innovations that help consumers. In the past year alone, financial powerhouses like American Express, Capital One, MasterCard, Deutsche Bank, and JPMorgan Chase...

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To Spend, or Not to Spend

It may not be a popular sentiment during the holidays, but there’s a benefit to saving more and spending less any time of year. Having savings reduces stress, providing a cushion when emergency expenses arise. And due to the power of compound interest, saving even modest amounts over the course of one’s working life can lead to a retirement that is more comfortable. Furthermore, surveys have found a link between...

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Underbanked and Underserved

The terms “unbanked” and “underbanked” are falling out of favor. Traditionally, they’ve referred to people who use alternative financial services, such as check cashers or payday loans, because they either lack a bank account or fail to use the accounts they have. The general assumption about both groups is that they lack the income or financial savvy to access these services at a bank. However this stereotype doesn’t always hold...

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ROSCAs On The Rise

They’ve gotten glowing coverage in the financial inclusion press. They’ve been featured twice in the New York Times in the past two months. They’re the subject of prominent research projects and a new book by a microfinance pioneer. It’s fair to say that savings groups, often called Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs), are “having a moment.” Yet in spite of this momentum, many people – in the developed world...

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Mystery Shoppers and Financial Inclusion

With the holiday shopping season upon us, it’s likely you’ll find yourself jostling with other shoppers at a crowded store in the coming weeks. Although, some of these “shoppers” might be better described as secret agents. The holidays are a prime time for mystery shoppers: people contracted by market researchers, watchdog groups, and retailers to mimic the interactions of real customers in various shopping scenarios. These mystery shoppers provide detailed...

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The Sharing Economy

Who could have predicted that in our consumer-driven world, buying stuff would one day seem passé? Yet, in the zeitgeist of the sharing economy, that’s where global commerce is headed. Called “the future of business” by its proponents, the sharing economy model is simple: companies use digital platforms to let customers use other people’s available assets or labor, either through one-off rentals or a subscription service. Users get affordable access...

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