People who work on financial inclusion often make assumptions about customers and what drives their choice and use of financial services. But do we know how customers feel about their ability to engage and use these services? CGAP is seeking to answer this question and test out some initial ideas as it explores the concept of empowerment and the role it can play in building customer trust and confidence.
Women in Philki village in India’s eastern Bihar state, where I spent some time two years ago and again recently, offer insights. Women in rural Bihar often handle household finances, as many men migrate to cities for work. In Philki, they had their first taste of branchless banking two years ago when a kiosk resembling a brick-and-mortar branch, called a Customer Service Point (CSP), opened with two agents staffing it. Initially, the women in the village were enthusiastic but somewhat skeptical. “Will this bank run away?”was a phrase I heard repeatedly. They talked of withdrawing money from the kiosk, but not of conducting other transactions.
When I visited Philki and a few neighboring villages more recently, however, doubts about the CSP “running away” had disappeared. In addition, almost all of the women I spoke with were not only withdrawing money from the kiosk but making deposits. This new confidence was striking.