WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, teaming with private partners including the Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase, announced initiatives on Tuesday to expand banking services to millions of Americans and others worldwide who lack essentials like checking or savings accounts and access to credit.
“More than two billion people around the world rely solely on cash transactions, and basic financial services are out of reach for one in four individuals on earth,” the Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, said at a two-day financial inclusion forum of government, financial industry, academic and nonprofit leaders at the Treasury Department.
“Even in the United States, with greater access to conventional financial services, one in five households continues to use alternatives like check cashers or auto title loans,” Mr. Lew added, and millions do not have enough financial history—despite years of paying rent and bills—to have the credit score needed for access to loans.
Many of the 10 initiatives announced to reduce the ranks of the so-called unbanked were intended to harness technological innovations to provide access to financial services for low-income people.
To that end, the Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase have joined to create a new fund for investment and development, while PayPal and Village Capital are partners in a venture to support entrepreneurs seeking technology-based solutions to expanding financial services in the United States and Mexico.
One public-private partnership would focus on bringing basic banking services to the Mississippi Delta—“one of the most unbanked regions in the country,” according to a Treasury statement. Another, financed by Coca-Cola, which is based in Atlanta, would provide training in financial literacy and entrepreneurship for women and girls in the southeastern United States.
Several companies and nonprofits, along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, intend to work to develop systems that provide a credit history for more Americans, taking into consideration, for example, their rent payment record.
“For many, it is hard to imagine how it would be possible to manage financial affairs without basic products like a checking account or a credit card,” Mr. Lew said. “But the consequences of exclusion are real, and expanding access to financial services is important at every level of the global economy.”