Innovative as they are, financial solutions often overlook a key market: the 2 billion people worldwide who don’t have credit cards or bank accounts. What would the fintech landscape look like if the unbanked had access to these and other financial services?
Formal financial institutions are exclusive for a reason. In the U.S., it costs between $250 and $400 per year for a bank to maintain a checking account. Banks around the world generally can’t afford the maintenance costs to serve low-income people and aren’t incentivized to design products for small savers. But digital currency protocols have the potential to make pervasive change by expanding services to people who are financially excluded — without relying exclusively on traditional banks. Unlike reimbursing a friend for brunch using a checking account and emoji on Venmo, the infrastructure supplied by a digital currency protocol isn’t sleek or user-friendly. It could, however, create a massive group of new fintech users.