Friday, March 18, 2016

Nearly 54 percent of 45 million Tanzanians have no access to formal financial services, despite the fact that financial institutions have been struggling to reach them.

Various studies highlighted illiteracy as one of key factors behind the mess, but during the just ended ‘FinDisrupt’ event in Arusha that brought together product development teams among financial service providers as well as researchers in the financial sector, tech developers and end users, a new insight came in the picture.

Traditionally, financial experts have been working extra time to capture this huge market by pushing their readymade products through orchestrated marketing strategies, but in vain.

Now, the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) experts gave an interesting insight that the financial products that have been pushed on the market do not respond to the real challenges facing the local people.

“The tricky issue is that experts have been trying hard to make people understand their products, instead of them to comprehend the customers need well before creating product” says FSDT operations director, Irene Mlola.

Ms Mlola argues that unless the product developers change their mindset and understand their customer’s need before inventing any financial service, majority of people would continue using their traditional way of saving money.

Her argument was anchored by an expert from San Fransisco, Dr Ibanga Umanah, Co Founder Brave Venture Labs, who said that in the digital economy, product developers ought to devise the people centred financial products in order to win the hearts and minds of their potential customers.

“Human centered design is a process for understanding people and designing solutions to their problems” Dr Umanah explained.
                 Build empathy
He told the financial services developers that they need to be open to seeing the customers’ world from their point of view and let them lead.
“When you interact with the potential customers talk 10 percent, listen 90 percent and ask open ended questions to solicit stories” Dr Umanah stressed.
He also insisted to follow up on personal and concrete topics, use the words they use, be warm and interested, in particular, smile.
“Create from the user’s point of view, not your businesses” Dr Umanah underlined.
Although, institutions such as FSDT, the world Bank, the National Bureau of Statistics and a number of market research firms among others, generate insights on the demand side of the financial sector, the response from the market, but new products does not give the confidence that the insights generated are being used for the improvement and development of new innovative products.

It was from this background, FSDT decided to ignite a conversation on consumer centered product development in order to fill the product improvement and development gap in Tanzania.

The main objective of FinDisrupt was to promote evidence based decision-making in product development by financial service providers in Tanzania.

In most cases, the product development teams are at the heart of tweaking international products cascaded to them by their mother companies / improving exciting products and in a few cases they are involved in the development of new products.

“In order to shake up the financial products development space in Tanzania, this is the group which we would like to influence and work with post the event” chipped in Mr Elvis Mushi,FSDT Head of research.

At the end of the three-day FinDisrupt event, the product development teams from mobile network operators (MNOs) banks, microfinance institutions such as saccoss, Insurance Companies and Pension funds, were able to design the people centred products.

The FSDT mission is to generate sustainable improvements in the livelihoods of poor households through reduced vulnerability to shocks increased incomes and employment achieved through providing greater access to financial services for more men, women and enterprises.

The FSDT in partnership with the Bank of Tanzania defines financial inclusion as a state where: 

All Tanzanians regularly use financial tools and payment platforms to manage cash flows and mitigate shocks. These are delivered by formal providers through a range of appropriate services and infrastructure, with dignity and fairness”.

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