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In Latin America 54.4% of adults have an account at a bank or mobile money provider, below the global average of 68.5%, according to the World Bank's Global Findex Database.
However, in the region 55% of adults own a mobile phone and have access to the internet, 15 percentage points more than the developing world average.
This relatively low rate of account penetration coupled with strong adoption of mobile phone technology spells opportunities. Fintechs, which leverage such devices, are well positioned to help raise inclusion rates - and this area will be explored at the second Montevideo Fintech Forum, being held in the Uruguayan capital on August 28.
"What captivates me about fintechs is their potential to include the excluded through the development of the digital economy, mainly via mobile payments and access to loans," Sebastián Olivera, founder of Uruguay's fintech chamber, an event partner, told BNamericas.
Fintechs are "aggregators of social value since they enable sectors, until now excluded by traditional lenders, to have access to quality financial services," he said.
Olivera (pictured) said true financial inclusion involves providing transaction accounts - those that allow the holder to store, send and receive funds - and access to financial education. He urged against policies that force people into the financial system, such as those that compel workers to go to a bank to withdraw their wages.
"What is key is generating a critical mass of educated people who make the best decisions regarding their resources and who can demand increasingly sophisticated services that adapt to their needs in a bespoke manner," Olivera said.
Forum speakers include Uruguayan government and World Bank officials as well as local and international consultants and fintech CEOs.
Topics include financial inclusion in the digital age, blockchain and insurtech, e-wallets, fintechs and anti-money laundering, and international trends and their impact on Latin America.
*The second Montevideo Fintech Forum takes place in Montevideo, Uruguay, on August 28, 2018. Find out more.