In 2013, the MetLife Foundation made a $200 million commitment over five years to move global financial inclusion forward. The foundation, along with its partners launched projects around the world beginning with low-income communities in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States. Since then, MetLife has moved quite a bit of money fairly quickly out of the program and has disbursed over $100 million so far.
Where's the rest of the money likely to end up? One hint may lie in a recent grant which aims to scale up innovation in the financial services industry so it can better reach financially underserved and unbanked populations.
The MetLife Foundation recently announced that it is providing close to $400,000 over two years to support the Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion: Best Practices project. The project is a joint effort between the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), the Institute of International Finance (IIF), and the MetLife Foundation. It will build on the findings from a previous study conducted by CFI and IIF and will dive into some key challenges to serving low-income populations and those at the base of the economic pyramid.
To begin, the project will partner with more financial tech startups, extend insurance coverage, continue to build the financial capabilities of low-income populations, and improve banking models. CFI and IIF will also lead workshops with mainstream financial institutions to publish the project's findings. According to Elisabeth Rhyne, managing director of CFI, “Our intent of this project is to provide financial institutions with practical knowledge to overcome their business challenges” in order to effectively serve poor populations by providing them with “better products, service, reliability, and quality.”
The MetLife Foundation has a working history with Accion, having partnered with the nonprofit on various initiatives over the past few years.
In 2015, MetLife awarded the financial inclusion outfit a two-year, $250,000 grant to support its new microfinance institution, Dawn Microfinance. Located in Myanmar, Accion’s Dawn Microfinance is using this MetLife grant to build institutional capacity related to product and services expansion, improving internal controls, and consumer education.
The MetLife Foundation’s support of financial inclusion work in Myanmar is particularly important, as over 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in poverty and 80 to 90 percent of the population does not have access to formal financial services. Myanmar is often described as the “final frontier” in the global financial inclusion space.
The MetLife Foundation may concentrate a lot of its financial inclusion efforts in low- and middle-income countries, but it isn’t overlooking unbanked and financially underserved groups in the United States.
In 2015, the foundation awarded a $1 million grant to the Accion U.S. Network. The funds are being invested in the organization’s online lending platform aimed at helping more women, minority, and immigrant entrepreneurs gain access to capital. The grant also supports the integration of new technologies in order to streamline the loan application process and strengthen customer experiences. Accion U.S. Network is the largest nonprofit organization specializing in micro-lending in the United States.
It will be interesting to see what organizations this funder will partner up with next, and where the remaining $100 million of MetLife’s financial inclusion commitment will land—assuming, of course, this funder follows through on that pledge.