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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Financial Services for the Poor

Case Overview

FSG supported the Financial Service for the Poor (FSP) group to develop a five-year strategic plan.

The Challenge

Financial services like savings accounts, insurance, and loans help people manage life's risks, take advantage of opportunities, and increase financial security. However, only one in ten people living on less than $2 a day has access to formal financial services. Most of the world's poor must resort to risky, expensive, and inefficient informal methods. The Gates Foundation created the FSP team to address these challenges, and FSG was engaged to assist them in developing their 2008 – 2012 strategic plan.

Approach & Solutions

FSG was engaged to provide research and structure toward developing a more focused and results-oriented strategy that included a tighter theory of change, distinct goals and activities, and metrics to measure performance against those goals.

FSG conducted in-depth secondary research on the microfinance landscape, the potential impact of savings accounts and the activities of other funders in the space, including commercial investors and multi- and bi-lateral agencies. We engaged the FSP team in an iterative process to understand their priorities and incorporate their unique perspectives and experiences into the strategy. As the strategy was developed, FSG conducted interviews with experts to collect external feedback on the draft strategy and refine it accordingly.

The cornerstone of the new strategy was to spur savings accounts for the poor in developing countries. Savings accounts were universally demanded among the poor, the least supplied relative to demand, the most dependent on technology for successful provisioning and could have significant social and economic impact on households.

In line with a primary focus on savings, FSP’s future activities focused on:

  • Product development: Helping institutions develop and manage savings and asset protection products that are in the small sizes the poor can use and in the neighborhoods where the poor live
  • Networking for product delivery at scale: Enabling the poor to reap the cost and value benefits of connecting to financial networks
  • Trust and safety: Creating a safe and attractive environment for deposit mobilization
  • Policy and advocacy: Putting deposit mobilization on the global development agenda
The Foundation’s co-chairs, Bill and Melinda Gates, formally approved the proposed five-year strategy in May of 2008 and the new strategy was announced in The Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2008.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

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