At one end of the spectrum, mobile phones and the availability of new DFS (digital financial services (DFS) are at the forefront of this change by expanding access to financial services for excluded populations. On the other end, the 2017 Findex data shows that more adults are reported to have saved informally than formally in the past year, building on the long-standing tradition of informal savings in SSA. Linking these has the potential to bridge the remaining financial inclusion gap in the region, and cash-in/cash-out agents can play a critical role in this process.
Agents often represent the primary and most tangible touchpoint for most DFS customers when transacting, cashing-in their e-wallets or learning about new DFS functionalities. Many organizations have embraced an agent model as an economically efficient and operationally scalable channel that has potential to expand coverage and access in low income and rural areas, which are comprised of a lot of informal savers.
This paper is a collaboration between Mastercard Foundation’s Savings Learning Lab and Savings at the Frontier with key contributions from PHB Development. It provides an overview of how agents are an essential component of delivering customer value to excluded populations such as informal savers. Based on the experiences of financial service providers in SSA, the paper highlights key strategies for building and managing high performing agent networks including practical examples and guidance on agent selection and recruitment, agent training, agent monitoring and finally designing incentives to motivate agents. Technology-based solutions can help providers adopt a data-driven approach to managing and growing their agent networks and delivering value to customers. This data-driven approach can also be leveraged to design incentives structures to motivate agents and scale agent networks to reach more informal savings mechanisms who would not have access to formal financial services otherwise.