In my journey of pursuing finance for social good more so in the area of financial inclusion, I have to read many books and research papers. In the process, I came across the work carried out by the Center for financial services innovation (CFSI )and I quoted their work extensively in the many papers I wrote while pursuing my master’s degree. Having said that, you can imagine the extreme joy I had and goosebump level that went through my skin when we as Mandela Washington Fellows at Northwestern University were scheduled to visit their offices last Friday.
We were hosted by Sohrab Kohli, one of the managers at CFSI who works in designing initiatives that address specific consumer challenges. CFSI has been running for the past 14 years and they are on a mission improve the financial health of Americans, especially the underserved, by shaping a robust and innovative financial services marketplace with increased access to higher quality products and practices. They do this through research, consulting services and through the financial solutions lab that hosts startups that create solutions that will improve the financial lives of the American people.
I have said this before on this platform, that one of the key aspects of the Mandela Washington Fellowship is to expose the fellows to the American way of doing business. So, this was a great opportunity for me to see first hand how the United States handles this issue that I am very passionate about-financial inclusion.
Of particular interest to me was the financial solutions lab where a group of startup companies works on creating everyday solutions that will help your typical American. This would be everything credit score rating to helping consumers avoid overdraft.
CFSI had several parallels in mission and goal with Financial Sector Deepening(FSD) which it’s footprints in several African countries. I have been following FSD’s work for the longest time and CFSI is probably second to FSD to the number of times I have quoted their research in my term papers. Both organizations have worked in the Financial Diaries research with CFSI following about 235 American families to deliver insight into the attitudes, strategies, tools, and products used to manage financially. The Kenya Financial Diaries followed the cash flows of 298 low-income Kenyan households over a one year period, with over half a million transactions recorded during this time.
This kind of research is helpful in determining exactly the kind of financial products that will be of benefit because it would be based on proving solutions to the problems observed during the research. CFSI reminded me that pursuing finance for social good means creating products and services that are meaningful and of value to the end user.