By Kirill Evstratov, CEO at Unlimit
With their agile and customer-centric approach, fintech companies have always been well-positioned to address the challenges faced by businesses looking to expand globally. In recent years, they have also started playing a critical role in helping these businesses drive financial inclusion. According to the World Bank, an estimated 1.4 billion adults worldwide do not have access to formal financial services, thus creating a gap that requires new more accessible fintech solutions to be developed to cater to the needs of the unbanked worldwide. This is why my team and I have made it our mission to help drive financial inclusion through innovative fintech solutions, as we understand the importance of an equal financial landscape for the wider society.
One of the ways in which fintechs have been actively aiding the reach of a shift in financial inclusion and global growth is by providing cross-border payment solutions that are faster, cost-effective, and more secure than traditional methods. For example, the mobile money service M-Pesa has transformed the financial landscape in East Africa by providing access to financial services to millions of unbanked individuals, lifting 2% of the Kenyan population out of poverty. This is one of the main reasons why we at Unlimit have worked so hard to compile a vast alternative payment methods portfolio and keep adding to it constantly. Unlimit is a London-based global fintech offering advanced payment capabilities through an evolving financial interface to startups and businesses across the globe. Thanks to Unlimit’s global on-ground presence, backed by years of local payment landscape expertise in regions like LatAm, APAC and EMEA, we know how important it is for businesses expanding to new regions to offer payment options beyond traditional ones that are unique to each specific location.
Another solution that can revolutionise the way people access financial services is Banking as a Service (BaaS). With BaaS, fintechs can offer their services to third-party companies who can, in turn, offer these services to their own customers, basically allowing any business out there to become a fintech themselves. This innovative approach to banking is helping drive financial inclusion worldwide by making banking services more accessible, convenient, and affordable for people who were previously excluded from the traditional banking system due to their location, income level, or lack of credit history. My team at Unlimit is helping to lead this innovative solution all across the globe. With BaaS, users can access banking services through third-party providers, often using mobile apps that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. On top of that, BaaS solutions offer lower fees and more flexible account options in comparison to traditional banking services, which are often expensive, with high fees and minimum balance requirements.
When we started developing our Unlimit BaaS solution we wanted to break down existing barriers and help make financial services borderless – accessible by everyone, regardless of any factors. We knew we had the platform to support it and unlike many other existing players, we had the experience and the resources to create a full-stack product that would be able to leverage our payments, card issuing, and IBAN account rails. Despite the fact that we have currently launched it only in Europe, our goal is to bring it to all of our regions of presence by mid-2024.
Cryptocurrencies have also opened up new ways in which fintechs can help with inclusivity by providing a decentralised financial system that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of nationality, gender, or socioeconomic class, and is open source. In my opinion, the benefits of crypto for financial inclusion are numerous but perhaps one of the main ones is that it allows under- and unbanked individuals to participate in the global economy and receive and send money instantly, anywhere in the world, without worrying about currency exchange fees, transaction fees, or intermediaries.
This is especially key for developing countries. For example, the Philippines ranked second in Chainalysis’ Global Crypto Adoption Index in 2022 and had seen a significant cryptocurrency transaction growth spurt during the pandemic ( 362% year-on-year to nearly 20 million in the first half of 2021). This has caused its Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to acknowledge the benefits of cryptocurrencies and the ways that they can potentially help improve domestic and cross-border payments and boost the country’s recovery from the ongoing crisis, and announce the launch of a wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC). Of course, on a global scale, there is still a long way to go and the path won’t be easy, but I believe the possibilities are endless and the journey will be worth it.
This is why, back in 2021 Unlimit, decided to build Unlimit Crypto, our on and off-ramp fiat solution for Web3. We envisioned it as a bridge between two worlds, that will allow us to shorten the way to mass crypto-adoption and take our ambition for borderless payments beyond our physical world into the metaverse.
The impact of fintech companies on financial inclusion is already being felt. According to a report by the Global Findex Database, the number of adults worldwide who have a bank or mobile account increased from 51% in 2011 to 76% in 2022. This increase was largely driven by the adoption of digital financial services in emerging markets and the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, 40% of adults in developing countries made transactions using a card, phone, or the internet for the first time and overall fintech adoption was 50% higher in countries with strict lockdown measures than those without such restrictions.
However, there are still many challenges that need to be faced head-on to truly make a difference. The three key challenges are education, work, and gender disparity – just 65% of unemployed adults worldwide have an account and 55% of the unbanked population globally are female.
For me and my team at Unlimit tackling these challenges, driving change, and building products that can truly make a difference has always been the main motivating factors fueling all of our new projects. Our in-house developed payment infrastructure consists of a whole series of solutions, including payment processing, BaaS, and on- and off-ramp solutions for Web3, and supports a wide range of payment methods, such as credit cards, alternative payment methods, and local bank transfers. This allows us to help businesses accept payments from and make payments to customers worldwide, regardless of their location or preferred payment method.
Our goal is to make it easier for individuals and businesses to access financial services, even if they are located in remote or underdeveloped areas and offer our services to a wider audience, ensuring that everyone has access to the financial tools they need to thrive. Unlimit has been successfully delivering on this goal for the past 13 years and we are not planning on stopping.
Learn more about Unlimit – a global fintech company that offers a large portfolio of financial services, including payment processing, banking as a service (BaaS), and an on-ramp fiat solution for crypto, DeFi, and GameFi.