August 31, 2017
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – Two financial service providers were honoured on Tuesday night at the Financial Inclusion Innovation Summit held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for their contributions to furthering financial inclusion in the Pacific
The Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) awarded the 2017 Reuben James Summerlin Innovation Award to joint winners the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund and Westpac Banking Corporation, Papua New Guinea (both grant recipients of PFIP).
The award was established to commemorate the memory of the late Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) Manager, Reuben Summerlin, to honour his legacy to financial inclusion in the Pacific (PFIP).
The Award is bestowed upon the outstanding PFIP financial service provider partner that has made the greatest contribution to Financial Inclusion in the Pacific for that year. Innovation can help reduce some of the challenges Pacific Islanders face in accessing financial services, particularly geographical distances in accessing the nearest physical bank branch, for example.
In presenting the award, PFIP Acting Manager Mr. Krishnan Narasimhan said that both projects, though in the infancy stages, have proven significant contributions to reaching the underserved communities in the highlands Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands respectively and the potential they hold in extending formal financial services to the rural and low-income households.
“Innovation is not confined to either public or private sector. Westpac is a prime example that even a traditional, established international bank can embrace innovative approaches and is well on its way to proving the sustainability of the business case for customer-centricity. Likewise, the state-owned Solomon Islands National Provident Fund is proving the demand for an easy to access voluntary contribution superannuation scheme. Both organisations deserve acknowledgement for the potential impact they have on financial inclusion in the Pacific region,” said Mr Narasimhan.
The awards were received by Westpac’s Regional Head of Retail, Mr Adam Downie and SINPF’s Assistant Manager Member and Employee Services, Mr Wilson Hano respectively.
Citation for the SINPF Award
The Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF) received the award based on the early results of their structured approach to developing a micro pension product for voluntary contributors to the national superannuation fund. This product has potential for extensive scale-up to serve the self-employed sector.
Despite its infancy, the ”youSave” product has clearly demonstrated client-centric product design, a targeted focus in reaching underserved segments of the population, especially women, and has paved the way to take superannuation and possible micro pension benefits to scale across the Pacific region.
The youSave product is a clear example of client-centric product design, with features specifically tailored to meet the retirement saving needs of the target customer group: self-employed and informal sector workers, often adults, particularly women and rural dwellers, who are vulnerable, under-served and under-banked. Specifically, these include flexibility in access to funds, convenience of deposits, simplicity in customer on-boarding, modified simple KYC requirements and attractive interest ‘top-ups’.
The product was launched in May but has already signed up over 600 customers, with the most active members having saved 11 times.
Citation for Westpac PNG Award
An equally important example of innovation in financial services is the specially set up Westpac’s PNG Highlands Innovation Hub. The project was set up to design, test and validate a commercially scalable model for providing financial services to low-income populations in PNG, particularly targeting the Highlands region, women and smallholder farmers. The project is developing financial services that inspire PNG Highlanders to use the services to manage and improve their daily financial lives.
The design approach being used has already successfully revamped Westpac PNG’s entire customer on-boarding experience, with a human-centred design approach to development of the new Choice Wantok product and merchant network providing accessibility. The Innovation Hub is also considering future product development to meet the needs of clients, such as short-term credit and money transfer services via a mobile banking platform.
Westpac is a prime example that even a traditional, established international bank can embrace innovative approaches and is well on its way to proving the sustainability of the business case for customer-centricity.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over 1.6 million low-income Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.
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