Shamina Singh talks financial inclusion on NPR

Joined by Ida Rademacher of the Aspen Institute and Wole Coaxum of MoCaFi, the discussion centered on the implications of exclusion from the financial system.

Shamina Singh talks financial inclusion on NPR

July 14, 2022 Aspen, CO

At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Shamina Singh sat down with NPR’s Jenn White, host of the WAMU program 1A, for a conversation about financial inclusion.

Joined by Ida Rademacher of the Aspen Institute and Wole Coaxum of Mobility Capital Finance (MoCaFi), the discussion centered on the implications of exclusion from the financial system, the opportunities presented by the digital economy, and why now is the right moment for the U.S. to set its sights on creating a financial system that is as equitable as it is inclusive.

As Singh put it: “We have an opportunity right now, in a post-COVID economy, to build back in a way that recognizes the inequities in a system that has laid bare the problems that people are facing. The question that we’re trying to ask and answer is: Can we do it in a way that is responsible, that honors the fact that people have a right to participate in the formal economy? We have an opportunity in the United States to make it happen.”

The conversation also touched on the importance of narrowing existing racial and gender gaps in the financial system, including through technology.

“We’re at this really interesting crossroads in our country,” Singh said. “We have all of this wonderful technology, and we hear all of these buzzwords — open banking, cryptocurrency, data science — and then we have this other piece that says there are a lot of people who still are living outside of the formal system, either because they’re digitally disconnected, or for whatever reason. What I think we’re trying to do here is create an intersection that brings together the technology, and the possibility of technology, with the real needs.”

Singh also explained how Mastercard’s efforts to improve financial inclusion are powered by partnership and by a commitment to social impact that runs through the entire business.

“What Mastercard brings is scale and connection and the ability to move fast,” she said. “But it’s only when we partner with organizations like the Aspen Institute, who bring the convening power and the research and the evidence base, and MoCaFi, who brings the reach into communities who are underserved, and who brings the passion and the knowledge base and the credibility, that any of this really works.”

This type of collaboration between stakeholders in and connected to the financial system has generated renewed energy for establishing a national financial inclusion strategy in the U.S. to help create an economy that works for everyone.

“It's part of the reason that we are excited now,” said Rademacher. “It's companies like Wole's, it's leaders like Shamina, there's really momentum building on the fact that the U.S. is really the odd man out, not having a national financial inclusion strategy, where we actually name some goals.”

Coaxum agreed, saying, “You now start to create an ecosystem where everyone's playing to their strengths and their natural positions in the marketplace. Then there's a role for the community groups to be a further voice. And there's a role for government to play, to bring it all together. … I've been in this game now for over 25 years, and I think this is the most momentum I've seen in terms of building a coalition to solve this.”

Listen to the full conversation online.