It has been nearly a week since I soaked up the last bit of California sunshine outside and thought-provoking content and connections inside during closing sessions at the Center for Financial Services Innovation’s annual conference, CFSI EMERGE. Each request from colleagues to “provide a quick recap” reminds me of another insight that can spark innovative solutioning, resource we can communicate across the network of WEX Health Partners, or quote that could inspire broad mind shifts.
Inclusion Is a Choice
The CFSI team brought together an impressive and inspiring group of keynote speakers for this year’s forum. Almost all of them spoke about inclusion in one way or another. In all six of the 2018 Financial Solutions Lab winners I saw new products built by people who found ingenious ways to serve populations whose needs were not previously being met by mainstream financial institutions. Industry leaders Colin Walsh of Varo Money and Jacqueline Reses of Square Inc. shared how their respective missions of making money management tools and business loans easy and readily available to young people and small business owners has radically shifted mind sets and approaches. Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, inspired us with his stories of growing up with nothing, staying in a state of empathy by spending time living on the streets of New York City as a homeless person, and the responsibility and moral obligation that business leaders have to be forces of good in the world.
Fast Money/Slow Money
Always on the lookout for “aha” moments, I certainly was not disappointed at this event. Naveen Agarwal, chief customer officer at Prudential, explained that we all engage in “fast-money” transactions – $18 here, $30 there, $6 at the coffee drive-thru. They are quick, easy and frequent. We don’t give these transactions much thought. And then there are “slow-money” transactions like mortgages or college loans. These kinds of transactions are stressful, requiring collateral, credit checks, co-signers, legal reviews, and dozens of signatures. We’ve been programmed to avoid slow-money transactions, and this automatically informs our financial behaviors, such as renting versus buying to build up equity. When we can apply design thinking across the industry and simplify slow-money transactions to the point where they are as simple as fast-money transactions, we might all be more inclined to make wiser financial decisions.
Volatility Is the Real Income Problem
Daryl Collins with Bankable Frontier Associates relayed how similar her interviews were with small family-run business owners in Nigeria and Kentucky. Both had six to eight sources of income, about a third of them unpredictable. Both managed complex juggling acts, prioritizing which bills to pay and which to delay, deftly moving funds between several accounts, and somehow getting by. After having hundreds of these conversations in places all around the world, Daryl discovered a few universal needs—evening out the income streams and making temporary bridges or “floats” available to get through the tight times. I was very encouraged to hear that so many of the new products being launched by industry leaders like MasterCard, Fiserv, PayPal and Square are all about addressing these universal needs—for all people, not just those who already are accustomed to having ready access to financial services…and stability.
Thank you for coming along with me on this quick tour of the CFSI EMERGE Financial Health Forum. I am even more excited about the many ways WEX Health can help advance the cause of improved financial health due to our unique position at the intersection of healthcare and financial services. To read my observations on day one at EMERGE, read our post here. And for more information about the Center for Financial Services Innovation, see www.cfsinnovation.org. [https://cfsinnovation.org/]
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