The urgency of education accompanying the advancement in technology was echoed by moderator Maya Fisher French, a South African personal finance journalist, who noted that “highly sophisticated financial products bring sophisticated challenges,” especially in politically and economically sensitive parts of the world that often experience political and economic “shock.”
Helping to highlight some of those barriers were top finance officials from Mexico, Ukraine and Turkey (watch the panel discussion here). Mexico’s Deputy Minister of Finance and Public Credit Vanessa Rubio-Marquez said that many consumers in remote, mountain regions of Mexico do not have access to internet and that her country’s government is working to provide broadband access to over 40 million consumers in these regions. Interestingly, this is still a challenge faced in developed countries, as former United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated that more than 34 million Americans still do not have access to broadband internet.
Another major challenge to helping citizens become financially capable is the issue of government trust. In Ukraine, for example, rogue banks have made consumers wary of trusting financial institutions and products. Tymofiy Mylovanov of Ukraine’s National Bank said that in order to restore that trust, government reforms in the areas of financial protection and empowerment have to work and with quick results or else consumers will lose faith in these efforts. He said that understanding how financial products work is also critical to helping move people out of the shadow economy and into the financial mainstream.
The gender gap presents another major impediment to universal financial capability. (Watch the panel discussion on this topic here). According to Dr. Anna Zelentsova of Russia, one of the biggest challenges for women in many parts of the world is a lack of financial confidence, which is the result of not having access to a basic checking or savings account. In more developed countries like the United States, a lack of fiscal confidence negatively impacts women in the workforce, especially when it comes to negotiating for higher salaries and positions.