By Cindy Taylor/Publisher
Last week, much ballyhoo was made of Fed Chairman Powell’s visit to Mississippi. We thought it was REMARKABLE to see this take place, and certainly his visit was meant to underscore how many American’s fall in the “underbanked” category.
According to an FDIC press release published last October, the unbanked percentage of households in the US had fallen to 6.5%, its lowest rate ever recorded since the founding of the agency.
However, unbanked is different than under-banked. CNBC covered Powell’s visit and noted that one of the local community banks there just got its first ATM machine in 2015. Being a farm kid by origin, with a brother still living in rural Illinois, I can tell you that rural America still has lots of challenges and is not enjoying the same level of prosperity that other areas of the country have seen. Just as the Rural Electrification Act came much later to America’s rural areas after urban areas had long enjoyed electricity, the same is true with banking and yes, internet access. Many in America’s countryside have to utilize satellite dishes or have no internet at all.
Push all this back over to the financial side of the equation and we learn that regional banks in many areas of the US are struggling just to keep basic services going. And that is where the “underbanked” term comes into play. A banking infrastructure is in place – but severely limited in scope.
Enter….FINTECH. We’ve written extensively about the underbanked, and indeed in many places – Africa included – that have no stable financial infrastructure, residents are moving straight to financial technology – and often cryptocurrencies – to transact business, buy and sell goods and more. It’s somewhat ironic, because in fact, they are leap-frogging over more prosperous countries with more established legacy banking systems but utilizing financial technology.
At any rate, we were BEYOND ELATED to see Chairman Powell showcasing this important disparity in our country’s infrastructure. Shed light on problems and solutions follow. And indeed many are already there, if we turn to fintech.