A stable and efficient financial system is central to a well-functioning national economy. Providing poor households, smallholder farmers and small enterprises with improved access to financial services can boost their involvement in economic life and reduce their vulnerability.
The SDC’s focus
The SDC has been active in financial sector development since the 1970s as an important strategy in poverty reduction. It focuses its efforts on promoting access to a range of client-centric, responsible and sustainable financial services for low-income households, smallholder farmers and small enterprises. The SDC also works to improve the financial inclusion of poorer households, i.e. their integration into the country's existing financial sector.
The SDC has long considered the promotion of savings to be a key first step in the financial integration of people with low incomes. It is therefore increasingly focusing on developing markets for agricultural insurance and disaster insurance schemes together with global reinsurance companies in order to break through this final barrier in financial integration.
To this end, the SDC prioritises the following:
- For the clients: training courses for SDC target groups in general financial education with the aim of ensuring savings, insurance and credits and, thereby, also making access to institutional financial services easier.
- For the service providers: support for financial institutions that have the capacity and willingness to build up their range of services for SDC target groups over the long term and in a cost-effective manner.
- In terms of bolstering the financial sector, the SDC supports what are known as financial market infrastructures – a network of financial institutions or training centres, for example.
- If certain conditions are restricting the positive development of a country's financial sector, the SDC relies on the support of and works together with legislative, regulatory and supervisory institutions.
- The SDC plays an active role in international centres of expertise and networks such as the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF). Such organisations also help promote innovations and integrate relatively new topics such as digital technologies. The aims are to improve international coordination and harmonisation, exchange knowledge and experience, and support global and regional networks.
A well-functioning financial sector is central to a country's economic development. It offers the opportunity to mobilise savings to make productive investments. Providing private households and farmers as well as businesses with secure investment opportunities, access to payment transaction systems, credit and insurance services is essential in order to reduce income risks, achieve a more effective cushion against economic and market fluctuations and save for investments. Such investments can provide the basic foundation for an independent existence or for children's education. Crop and disaster risk insurance help smallholder farmers reduce their risks, which in turn increases their food security. An efficient financial sector accessible to all segments of the population has the effect of reducing poverty, both at the private household level and from the standpoint of the national economy. It also stimulates economic growth at all levels.
At present, poor people in many developing countries are largely excluded from the traditional financial system. They cannot open a savings account at a bank or apply for a small loan, for example. This is particularly true of rural regions, where the majority of the population have no access to such formal financial services. Typical reasons for this deficiency are a lack of sales and service offices, high costs, insufficient infrastructure, services that are not geared to specific needs, and inadequate legal and regulatory frameworks.
As a result, poorer members of the population often have to resort to relatives, friends and other informal money lenders. That is why the SDC works in financial sector development – to create enduring financial services for broad sections of the population who have so far had only limited, if any, access to such services.
The SDC also invests in new partnerships with the aim of attracting socially responsible commercial investors and works with other partners such as (local) commercial banks, insurance companies, leasing agencies and venture capital providers.