Technology/Services

Are the ‘Unbanked’ Finding New Ways to Bank?

Filling the gap for consumers underserved by traditional financial institutions

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- As of 2015, approximately 40% of U.S. adults age 18 and above are unbanked. This represents an increase of 9% from 2008, which suggests that more people are either underserved by traditional banking institutions or are finding competitive alternatives to traditional banking, according to Unbanked and Underbanked Consumers in the U.S. (4th edition) by Packaged Facts.

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Mobile financial services are helping to reshape consumer banking relationships. For the unbanked, they offer a realistic way to expand economic inclusion.

Mobile phones have become something nearly every consumer—including the unbanked—has. As of 2015, 93% of unbanked adults have a mobile phone. With mobile phones reaching saturation among the unbanked, text-based alerts can be a reality for all. More importantly for the financial services industry, almost two-thirds have a smartphone, giving these consumers access to 24/7 mobile banking convenience and the potential to use banking services at lower costs.

Nevertheless, because a third of unbanked adults don’t have a smartphone, that gap needs to close further to give a wider swath of the unbanked opportunity to leverage this option.

Mobile banking usage rates suggest real success in engaging underbanked consumers, who may be more likely to rely on it as their primary banking method than fully banked households; thus, for younger and middle-aged unbanked, a brighter, more connected financial services world lies ahead.

Fully realizing the potential of mobile financial services for the unbanked, however, will also mean engaging the unbanked more directly and more personally, said Packaged Facts. Mobile phones can provide the tools, but people and institutions must ideally provide the guidance, education and one-to-one interaction necessary to create longer-term financial relationships and proper, proactive use of mobile tools and technology.

“Mobile financial services can provide account information from virtually any location, at any time. Along with this information, they can provide tools consumers can use to manage their finances, conduct transactions, and avoid potential problems such as overdrafts, late fees, and fraud. As a result, this technology has the potential to make banking relationships more convenient and sustainable for households that otherwise may experience such concerns,” said David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts.

Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, consumer packaged goods and pet products and services.

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