20 May 2020, The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and MetLife Foundation through the i3 Program, in partnership with the Singapore FinTech Festival, today launched the COVID-19 Financial Health Challenge—a global initiative to help improve financial health and resilience during the current pandemic and beyond. The challenge was launched on API Exchange (APIX), a digital cloud-based innovation platform.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt millions of people and economies around the world, it is clear that financial solutions will be necessary to support an effective COVID-19 response. Including people in the financial system is about much more than having a bank account. It is about helping them build healthy financial lives to support active participation in today’s connected economy.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical importance of financial health has become that much more evident as the pandemic exposes and exacerbates the economic vulnerabilities of underserved communities in developing nations, and in particular the world’s least developed countries. Such communities include women, youth, smallholder farmers as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.
The COVID-19 Financial Health Challenge aims to identify solutions and business models that can help consumers (specifically low and middle income consumers) gain more control of their financial lives, improve resilience, make informed decisions and achieve their financial goals, which are key foundations to build back resilient economies in the post-COVID-19 period. The challenge calls for the submission of innovative digital solutions to improve the financial health of people at a global scale.
Hosting the challenge on the APIX platform overcomes traditional hackathon limitations and expands the outreach in order to discover the best minds from any part of the world and elevate the strongest financial health solutions.
Explaining the motivation behind the i3 Program, Ms. Evelyn Stark, who leads Financial Health at MetLife Foundation, said, “We believe financial health belongs to everyone. Our goal through the i3 program is to identify and support organizations interested in going beyond access and usage of financial services to improving financial health of low- and moderate-income people. The global pandemic has affected us all and demonstrated a clear and urgent need for building financial health and resilience among low-income communities. We hope that through this Challenge and our partnership, we can identify and support solutions that will improve financial health of millions.”
“We are glad to have UNCDF as our partner for the Global FinTech Hackcelerator organized as part of Singapore FinTech Festival. Financial services is an essential backbone of the global society, and financial literacy and health are increasingly becoming crucial. We look forward to seeing prototypes of innovative solutions develop on the APIX cloud-based innovation platform to enable consumers to be more financially savvy and resilient. We are also excited to have the winning solutions of this challenge join us at the Demo Day of the Global FinTech Hackcelerator,” said Mr. Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer of MAS.
“Financial inclusion and financial health are often construed to mean the same thing. Yet as trends in the past decade have demonstrated, the differences are significant. In the past decade or so, the developing world has taken significant strides in financially including unbanked populations, contributing to substantive economic and social development. We are proud to be partnering with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and MetLife Foundation through i3 programme to be championing this initiative,” said Mr. Henri Dommel, Director of UNCDF’s Financial Inclusion Practice Area.
Mr. Jaspreet Singh, Global Innovation Lead for UNCDF, elaborated that:” the Financial Health challenge aims to expand the understanding of financial health to prove its importance of building financial lives towards the effort of supporting post-COVID economic recovery and resiliency. The goal with this challenge is to search for solutions and then eventually work with them to pilot in UNCDF focus countries to achieve impact. The APIX platform is an integral part of this innovation journey which would include support around sandbox allowing to test and later scale”
Financial health innovators from all over the world are invited to submit their applications starting today until 29 June 2020 at www.uncdf.org/finlab. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to participate in a six-week programme to further develop and refine their solutions with assistance from industry experts. At the end of the programme, participants could receive financial support of up to $110,000 in the form of a grant and stipend. There is also capability development support in the form of technical assistance, mentorship and tools.
The winning applicants will have the chance to pilot their solutions in China and Malaysia working with UNCDF and MetLife Foundation, and to showcase their solutions at the MAS Global Fintech Hackcelerator during Singapore FinTech Festival in November 2020. Further information about the challenge can be found on the official website for the challenge at www.uncdf.org/finlab.
About MetLife Foundation
At MetLife Foundation, we believe financial health belongs to everyone. We bring together bold solutions, deep financial expertise and meaningful grants to build financial health for people and communities that are underserved and aspire for more. We partner with organizations around the world to create financial health solutions and build stronger communities, engaging MetLife employee volunteers to help drive impact. MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2019, MetLife Foundation provided more than $860 million in grants and $85 million in program-related investments to make a positive impact in the communities where MetLife operates. To date, our financial health work has reached 9.9 million low-income individuals in 42 countries. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit metlife.org.
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries. With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connects individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization. For more information visit https://www.uncdf.org/.
About Singapore FinTech Festival
Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) is the world’s largest FinTech festival and a global platform for the FinTech community comprising FinTech players, technopreneurs, policy makers, financial industry leaders, investors including private equity players and venture capitalists, and academics. In 2019, SFF and the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) saw more than 60,000 participants from almost 140 countries and featured highlights such as the FinTech Conference, the FinTech Awards, Global FinTech Hackcelerator, Innovation Lab Crawl and Industry Networking and Workshops. The SFF is organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in partnership with The Association of Banks in Singapore and in collaboration with SingEx Holdings. Find out more at www.fintechfestival.sg.
About API Exchange (APIX)
APIX (www.apixplatform.com) is the world’s first cross-border, open-architecture API platform, where financial institutions and FinTechs can integrate and test solutions via a cloud-based architecture. Through APIX, financial institutions and FinTech firms can discover one another on a curated global marketplace, design experiments collaboratively in the sandbox and deploy innovative solutions rapidly at a lower cost.
APIX is a flagship product of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN), a non-profit entity formed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, and the ASEAN Bankers Association, with the objectives of supporting financial innovation and inclusion around the world.
About the i3 Program
The i3 Program works in Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam to leverage digital technology and offer significant insights into low- and moderate-income (LMI) people’s needs, aspirations and behaviors in order to build and deliver financial services for the mass market. LMI people lack access to formal financial services and hence, have to struggle to manage their limited resources and cash flows. The i3 program expects to make a direct difference to at least 400,000 underserved LMI clients across the focus markets. In addition, more people will derive indirect benefits, based on the interventions’ ripple effects. The program is funded by the MetLife Foundation and implemented by MicroSave and UNCDF (United Nations Capital Development Fund).
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