Cell phones, biometrics fuel jump in bank account ownership

April 19, 2018 by Ken Sweet
Cell phones, biometrics fuel jump in bank account ownership
In this Dec. 2, 2016, file photo, Indians stand in a queue outside a bank to withdraw cash in Ahmadabad, India. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, April 19, 2018, fueled largely by the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)

Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now have some form of bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, largely due to the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The finding is a sign of the improved financial wellbeing of those living in developing countries and particularly women, who increasingly have a safe place to store their savings and are able to participate in the growing digitalization of the global economy.

But women still lag behind their male counterparts in bank account ownership, the World Bank report said.

An estimated 69 percent of adults had some sort of bank account in 2017, up from an estimated 51 percent in 2011 and up from 62 percent in 2014. That translates into an additional 515 million adults now having a bank account compared to three years ago.

The figures were released as part of the World Bank's Global Findex Report , a study on financial inclusion released every three years that involves interviews or surveys of 150,000 people covering 144 countries representing 98 percent of the world's population.

A chunk of the growth came from India, the world's second-most populous country, where bank account ownership has more than doubled from 40 percent to 80 percent in six years. Since 2014, the Indian government has been pushing a program to sign up individuals for simple, no-fee accounts tied to government biometric identification cards. While usage of those accounts is mixed, the World Bank report was not measuring whether or not a bank account is used, just if an adult had one or not.

Cell phones, biometrics fuel jump in bank account ownership
In this March 1, 2016, file photo, two women stand outside a building used by South Africa's ABSA bank in Cape Town, South Africa. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, April 19, fueled largely by the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File)

Sub-Saharan Africa saw big growth as well, fueled by mobile phone-based accounts. These "" accounts, as they are sometimes known, are tied to a person's cell phone account instead of a bank, and allow users to transfer to family or businesses.

In countries such as Kenya, roughly three quarters of Kenyans have a mobile money account, and other Sub-Saharan countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda also saw jumps in mobile phone account usage in the last few years. Mobile money accounts also appear to be gaining popularity in other parts of the continent as well, not just East Africa, to places like West Africa.

World Bank experts expect that mobile money accounts will be the primary way to drive the remaining 1.7 billion people without a bank account into financial services. The bank estimates that 1.1 billion of those 1.7 billion unbanked adults have a mobile phone, and could be more easily brought into the financial system.

The World Bank also recommended in its report that countries move their pension payments and other forms of government transfers from cash to electronic in order to spur broader bank account ownership. Utility companies can also consider other electronic forms of payment to spur bank account usage, the World Bank said.

Cell phones, biometrics fuel jump in bank account ownership
In this Feb. 15, 2018, file photo, pedestrians walk past a sign board of Punjab National Bank in New Delhi, India. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, April 19, fueled largely by the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

While nearly every demographic and continent saw increased usage of bank accounts and other forms of savings, the gender gap among those using financial services remains high, according to the World Bank. Women are nine percentage points less likely to have a bank or mobile money account, a gap that hasn't changed since the 2014 report.

But the biggest barrier to spur bank account ownership remains wealth itself. The poor are much less likely to have a bank or mobile money account, largely due to the lack of money they have to store in it. Two-thirds of those surveyed who did not have a bank account said a lack of savings was their primary reason for not having one.

The World Bank estimates that 93 percent of all American adults have some sort of bank . That matches a report compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a federal bank regulator, which estimated that roughly 7 percent of all Americans did not have a .

Cell phones, biometrics fuel jump in bank account ownership
In this Oct. 20, 2017, file photo people walk past a branch of HSBC bank in Hong Kong. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

Explore further: Bitcoin shouldn't become the new Swiss bank account: Mnuchin

Related Stories

Central banks warned to weigh risks of virtual currencies

March 12, 2018

A global financial body warns central banks should carefully weigh the risks before introducing their own virtual currencies, saying such innovations could risk destabilizing banking systems and unleash disruption across ...

Visa, MasterCard moving into mobile pay in Africa

March 3, 2015

Americans may just be getting used to mobile pay, but consumers in many African countries have been paying with their phones for years. Now payment processors Visa and MasterCard want to get a slice of that market, and are ...

6 Sri Lankans banned from leaving after Bangladesh bank hack

March 23, 2016

A Sri Lankan court banned foreign travel by six directors of a foundation that police say was remitted some of the $101 million stolen in the hacking of Bangladesh Central Bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank in New ...

Recommended for you

Google braces for huge EU fine over Android

July 18, 2018

Google prepared Wednesday to be hit with huge EU fine for freezing out rivals of its Android mobile phone system in a ruling that could spark new tensions between Brussels and Washington.

EU set to fine Google billions over Android: sources

July 17, 2018

The EU is set to fine US internet giant Google several billion euros this week for freezing out rivals of its Android mobile phone system, sources said, in a ruling that risks fresh tensions with Washington.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.