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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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 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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Smartphones and Smart Finance

I appreciated this article from the Huffington Post, which went viral earlier this year, showing all of the tech products from a 1991 Radio Shack ad that have been replaced by a single phone. And while I realize that marveling at the functionality of smartphone apps has become something of a cliché, if you really want to be impressed, consider some of the amazing things that can (more…)

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The Problem with Prepaid

The use of prepaid debit cards is rapidly rising. Despite consumer advocates’ widespread concerns and the less than enthusiastic reception to a string of celebrity endorsements, more than ever, people are using reloadable prepaid debit cards for their financial needs. Consider the following: The amount of money added onto reloadable prepaid debit cards in the U.S. almost tripled from 2008 to 2012, rising to $76.7 billion, with the Mercator Advisory...

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Bread and Media Circuses

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV or computer in the past month, you’ve probably heard that Apple is getting into the payment business with the launch of Apple Pay. But though it generated far less buzz in the media, I’m far more interested in another iconic brand name who made a similar move last year. And I believe the implications, at least for low-income people (more…)

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A Solution to Global Poverty, Hidden in Plain Sight

What do you think about foreign development aid? Are we sending too much or too little to lesser-developed countries? How about microcredit? Do you side with the defenders or the critics of this controversial approach to fighting poverty? If, like me, you follow global development issues, you probably have an opinion on both topics, which have become perennial (more…)

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Rethinking Remittances

Financial Thought and the Diaspora I recently came across another excellent article on the importance of reducing remittance fees worldwide. In “Remittances and savings of the diaspora can finance development,” at, authors Mahmoud Mohieldin (Corporate Secretary and the World Bank President’s special envoy on Millennium Development Goals and Financial Development) and (more…)

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Vision of a Global Financial Community

I. Financial Insecurity Hard-working people all over the world are living paycheck to paycheck, fearing for their financial future. What if that next paycheck doesn’t arrive? What if I get sick and can’t work for an extended period of time? What if I’m injured and lose my job? What will my family do? The vast majority of people on this planet live one paycheck away from financial disruption. (more…)

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Economic Inequality

Economic inequality is an issue that has global Impact. Those living paycheck to paycheck are typically excluded from formal sector opportunities. They live and work in the informal economy—not by choice, but by necessity. They are both producers and consumers, (more…)

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