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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