In an increasingly digitized world, with a pandemic that has finally incorporated virtual processes into daily life, being out of the online universe is synonymous with inequality and fewer opportunities.
This was revealed by a study carried out by the multilatina Credicorp, based in Peru, to analyze the state of financial inclusion in Latin America through an index from 0 to 100, in which Panama, with 52.2, was the best scored country, followed by Chile with 51.6 and Ecuador with 46.9.
According to the World Bank: “Financial inclusion means, for individuals and companies, having access to useful and affordable financial products that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – in a responsible and sustainable way.”
Today, several of these services have been digitized. Along with many brands that have decided create an online store, the buying and selling processes have required new modalities. In line with this, mobile banking and wallet applications, Internet payment systems and a host of digital solutions for managing finances predominate. Restrictions on presence were making some practices obsolete, such as the constant use of cash and attendance at a bank or ATM.
These tools contribute to improving the quality of life of families, helping them to increase their income, optimize savings and facilitate their daily transactions. They also reduce the barriers that micro, small, and medium-sized companies have – engines of the Latin American economy – to join the financial system and grow.
The situation in Latin America
The Credicorp study analyzed financial inclusion in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Mexico. The total average is only 38.3 points out of 100, although differences are observed in the situation of each country analyzed. The countries with the best results were Panama, with 52.2, and Chile, with 51.6. At the other extreme, Mexico was the country with the lowest score (35 points).
The least included groups are women, who score 35.9 compared to 41 for men; people over 60 years of age, with 29.6 points compared to 42.9 for young people; the rural population (31.5) compared to the urban (40.1), and people with a lower educational level, who barely reached 18.2, against 55.1 that corresponds to the university population.
In addition, data from the report indicate that 69% of Latin Americans do not use any banking medium for their economic transfers and only one in ten citizens has a mobile wallet.
Both the State and private companies have to take measures that aim to universalize access and promote financial education. Informing the population about the opportunities and responsible use of these services is how the necessary cultural change can be promoted.
Panama, leader in financial inclusion
The analysis showed that, in the three dimensions studied, our country was above the regional average.
The results detail that the most popular banking products in Panama are savings accounts or checking accounts, credit and debit cards. In addition, Panamanians have an average of three savings / insurance products and use the services of two financial institutions, with private banks being the most popular,
Panama is, after Chile, the country where the most transactions are made through banked media per month.
Of the respondents who confirmed having made a money transfer in the last year, 57% did so through their bank’s app and 49% through a mobile wallet.
Regarding the usefulness of digital media to carry out transactions, the score reached 4.20 (on a scale of 1 to 5), this being the country in which citizens best evaluate these instruments, qualifying as “good” or “very good ”mobile applications (67%) and mobile wallets (62%).
“Despite having a medium level of financial inclusion in the region, Panama has stood out positively compared to other countries in each of the dimensions covered by the study. However, there are aspects that need to be worked on to continue attracting more people and companies to the formal financial sector. We need more citizens with the necessary financial education to make informed decisions, ”said Enrique Pasquel, Credicorp’s manager of Corporate Affairs.