Insurance giant MetLife and its philanthropic arm the MetLife Foundation have always been laser-focused on financial empowerment. So much so that last year, backed with a five-year, $200 million commitment from the company, the MetLife Foundation revised its grantmaking strategy to home in on financial inclusion exclusively.
The foundation’s latest weapon in its financial empowerment arsenal is the "Financial Inclusion Challenge," which was recently launched in partnership with the Wall Street Journal.
The challenge is a two-year global project that is set to launch in Asia and will be managed by the Wall Street Journal. It is part of the Journal’s "Financing the Future" program, a major editorial initiative in which the paper will provide news, statistics, and other insights into the estimated two billion people who are currently excluded from the world’s formal banking systems.
The MetLife Foundation and WSJs partnership isn’t providing financial inclusion services directly to the poor through finance funding vehicles that are among the most popular in the NGO community—things like microfinance and mobile-based money transfer programs. Instead, it aims to encourage other for-profit and nonprofit outfits to submit proposals that offer both innovative and sustainable solutions for the world’s billions of unbanked.
Neither the foundation nor the WSJ are disclosing how much each challenge winner will receive to forward their financial inclusion efforts. That number is likely to vary from winner to winner. However, a panel of independent expert judges will determine who receives a check. For now, the challenge will focus on seeking out proposals from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations as they relate to education, technology, and financial inclusion programs, products, and services.
The MetLife Foundation and Wall Street Journal Financial Inclusion Challenge reads more like an impact investment than your traditional grantmaking. The MetLife Foundation does make impact investments, putting up around $70 million since the foundation was established. However, its financial commitment toward such investments is nowhere near the scale of its traditional grantmaking, which stands at around $650 million since the foundation’s inception.