New Financial Services for the Poor

When Bill and I talk with people about the foundation's work in providing financial services to the poor, many are often surprised that poor people can save money at all. But the truth is, the poor do save, but without access to banking services, it's much more difficult for them.

I recently visited Mexico to learn more about a foundation partnership of community-owned stores that's helping Mexico's rural poor gain access to bank accounts and other financial services. Most of the poor do not have access to financial services, and they live far away from the banks. In the communities that I visited in rural Mexico, people would need to travel for five hours in order to visit a bank.

In Mexico, we're trying to deliver banking services to rural communities in a way that is affordable to poor people. The way we are doing that is by bringing banking outside the bank. By using what's called the agent banking model, where you offer banking at corner stores, and other existing networks, there's an incredible opportunity to expand financial access and positively impact the poor.

More to Explore

A recent book by one of our grantees, Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on Two Dollars a Day, offers insights into the financial lives of the world's poorest households. The author spent a year recording how villagers--slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa--manage their money. I recommend this book to anyone who has interest in improving the lives of the poor.