We are not alone. The social animal that we are, according to Aristotle, needs to be in the reflection of the other. However, among the times of hyperconnectivity that we run, the vulnerability of people isolated by circumstances and, therefore, deprived of their autonomy, of their ability to decisively share everyone’s society has crept in. Cases such as those in developing countries or sparsely populated areas of Spain, in which rethought finances have a lot to say.
The report “Financial Inclusion in Spain” of the consultant Afi establishes “access to useful and affordable financial services that meet the needs of citizens in a responsible and sustainable way” as “the key to financial inclusion, a necessary condition for sustained and inclusive economic growth.”
The world Bank, he adds, has identified the largest pockets of financial exclusion in emerging countries. As it explains Luis Monge, Director of Sustainability of Santander SpainThis is due to the fact that “the governments, authorities and political leaders of these countries have not been able to implement and extend a basic welfare state among broad layers of their population”, so “their exposure to any problem is much greater”.
The solution consists in “activating new mechanisms of international cooperation that help to rebuild the economy from a social transformation, but it is also necessary to establish commitments with governments, which must assume their responsibility. Cooperation cannot be a blank check, but a shift lever with indicators and constant monitoring “.
Technology has been revealed as the great ally. According to Afi, the World Bank has confirmed that the provision of financial services through mobile phones is acting as “an effective financial inclusion mechanism that allows skipping stages of the financial development process followed in the most advanced countries.” Monge agrees, but wants more: “Technology is a tool for change with enormous potential. The challenge is to make it even more accessible, universal, cheap and tailored to the people.”
The Spanish situation in financial inclusion is optimal in the global comparison, but there is still work to be done. The Afi report recalls that, in countries like ours, “the degree of financial inclusion is considered practically universal. More than 95% of the population has bank accounts and there are no significant differences neither by gender nor by income strata.”
But, as he explains Marisa herrez, deputy director of a Santander branch in Vila, “there are still many people without access to minimal banking services such as having a savings account, direct debit of their receipts, making transfers or using the ATM.” In this context, Santander Bank “It has been working for years through platforms or specific services to access banking services, tailor-made financing for individuals and SMEs with difficulties in obtaining credit or financial difficulties, and financial education.”
More specifically, Afi emphasizes the depopulation process in vast territories of our geography. In the last two decades, the population of small municipalities – 1,000 inhabitants or less – has lost 142,000 inhabitants, a drop of 8.9%. In addition, it is experiencing an increase in longevity that has placed it in the area known technically as “over-aging”, with municipalities in which half of the population is over 80 years old. In these territories, “evolution shows a greater number of populations without access to a bank branch”, and “even more so in a banking business environment without margins and with a growing digitization of customers, accelerated by Covid-19”.
According to Herrez, Banco Santander “has been able to react quickly” in those areas with “new formulas such as the offices of collaborating agents”, and has continued to serve its customers “through digital or telephone channels for all its procedures. In addition, An attempt has been made to shorten the digital divide as much as possible, with personalized attention and advice to those who need it, “always aware of the difficulties faced by” older people, or not so old, but who for other reasons were not used to doing it. banking procedures. We have to help them, accompany them and shake hands so that they can carry them out through the most appropriate channels for them. If they cannot use an app, for example, we refer them to the telephone channel and the ATM. ” In any case, “although at first they have their doubts and fears, with practice and our support, in the end all this does not seem so complicated.”
Perhaps the biggest drive for them to gain autonomy comes from financial education. In this sense, the program Finance for Mortals “It tries to bring them the basic levels of banking knowledge in a clear and simple way, with a close language. Our entity has agreements with the different education counselors of the autonomous communities to teach the days in schools, institutes and universities, in collaboration with Red Cross and other associations and NGOs. “This year, in addition, an agreement was signed with Penitential Institutions” to bring together the basic concepts of finance for reintegration “, and” specific programs to help the self-employed and future entrepreneurs “are also taught.
The intersection with the public sector is also essential. The Afi report explains that the task of inclusion “requires an important collaboration between the banking system and the different public administrations.” It is the case of the service Correos Cash, which Herrez describes: “It is a new and revolutionary access service offered by Banco Santander” so that, “where there is no bank office or any collaborating agent, withdrawals and cash deposits can be made through the branches from Post, by requesting it in the app, the web, directly in the corresponding office – presenting the Santander card and the identity document – or even through its network of postmen “.
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