The Future of Financial Inclusion: Is Biometric Cardless Payment the Answer?by@niteshgu
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The Future of Financial Inclusion: Is Biometric Cardless Payment the Answer?

by Nitesh GuptaDecember 7th, 2023
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Biometric cardless payments could revolutionize financial access by offering secure, user-friendly options for the unbanked.

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While digital payments have been an empowering bridge in the global mission for financial inclusion, 1.4 billion adults worldwide remain excluded from the formal banking system, along with millions of underbanked women and low-income individuals.

The evident disparity drives home the need for a simple and accessible financial solution that benefits not only the underserved populations but also offers new avenues of expansion and prosperity to banks and fintech enterprises.

In the quest for a groundbreaking innovation that confers a more inclusive financial future, can biometric cardless payments be the answer?

Lack of Trust in Formal Banking Systems

Understanding and addressing the root causes of financial exclusion is paramount in our efforts to empower marginalized communities, which predominantly include minorities, women, and individuals in rural and low-income regions.

One significant barrier to financial inclusion is the low literacy rate, which often intersects with technological challenges. Many elderly and illiterate individuals find digital processes overwhelming, which, in turn, makes them susceptible to fraud.

Moreover, gender disparities persist, curtailing women's control over financial matters. For low-income individuals, the burdens of minimum balance requirements, prohibitive loan interest rates, and complex documentation further exacerbate their exclusion.

Drawing on the example of Nigeria and numerous other developing nations, local unions have organically established savings and borrowing schemes anchored in mutual trust and interpersonal ties.

Such grassroots financial systems stem from a palpable mistrust of formal financial institutions, often born out of fears of scams, theft, or mismanagement.

For these communities, transitioning to formal banking systems isn't merely about switching platforms; it's about overcoming deeply ingrained fears and cultural practices that prioritize community-based trust over institutionalized systems.

The Promise of Biometric Cardless Payments

Biometric cardless payments: Where one’s unique identity becomes the key to financial inclusion, bridging the gap between innovation and accessibility. Here is how:

Elimination of Physical Dependencies - A user relies solely on unique identifiers like fingerprints. There’s no need for cards, cash, expensive phones, or PINs.

Simplified Onboarding - This method removes the hassle of paperwork and intricate setup procedures. It stands as the most user-friendly option compared to other payment modes, requiring no specialized training for users.

Enhanced Security - Transactions are only authorized with the presence of the user’s actual fingerprint, minimizing the potential for fraud or theft and building trust among users.

Application of Existing Technologies - The utilization of biometric verification is already prevalent in consumer devices and high-security areas globally. With advancements like vascular pattern recognition, as showcased by Amazon One, the reliability and compatibility of this mode are continuously improving.

Consequently, biometric cardless payments are poised to become a common method in the upcoming years, with projections indicating their application in authorizing $1.2 trillion in remote mobile payments by 2027.

Biometric cardless payments enhance user safety and reduce fraud risks for financial institutions and tech companies.

Challenges in Adopting Biometric Cardless Payments

While promising for underserved communities, the implementation of biometric cardless payments presents challenges that must be addressed:

Technical and Infrastructure Challenges - Adopting biometric cardless payments necessitates substantial technical adjustments. Regions lacking updated infrastructure face hurdles, and interoperability between different biometric systems isn't always guaranteed. There's also the risk of system glitches and false readings.

Data Privacy and Security Concerns - Storing biometric data raises security and privacy alarms. The uniqueness of biometric data means it's a prime target, with its compromise posing severe risks since it can't be changed like traditional passwords.

Sociocultural and Psychological Barriers - Personal beliefs and cultural norms may deter some from embracing biometric payments. Misinformation or lack of awareness also limits its widespread acceptance.

Regulatory and Legal Hurdles - The emerging nature of this technology means regulatory and legal frameworks are often playing catch-up, leading to potential disputes and challenges.

Ensuring inclusivity and preventing biases is a concern.

Physical Dependency Limitations - Biometric systems rely on physical traits, which can change due to age, illness, or injury, causing authentication challenges. They might also not cater universally, possibly excluding certain demographics.

Tips for Seamless Biometric Cardless Payments Adoption

Crafting a watertight strategy is key to introducing biometric cardless payments:

Government Leadership: Governments need to drive adoption. A proven tactic? Launching a national ID system backed by biometrics. India's Aadhaar program, which tied 750 million biometric IDs to bank accounts, is a gold standard.

Financial Incentives: Governments can dangle carrots like tax breaks or funding to get banks and fintechs on board. Moreover, banks can trim account fees to draw in users and boost their bottom line.

Synergistic Partnerships: Link-ups between private and public sectors can fast-track uptake. Consider the synergy of Mastercard and the Nigerian government, melding biometric verification with financial offerings.

Tech-Forward Investments: Fintechs face technical snags, from data security to interoperability. Here's where venture capitalists enter, funneling funds into these ventures. Given the looming $10.5 trillion cybercrime bill by 2025, these biometric solutions can slash fraud, curtail costs, and spike transaction rates.

User Education: To quell reservations, we need hard-hitting campaigns that underscore the safety and perks of biometric payments. Knowledge is power.

Lastly, a tight regulatory framework governing biometric data usage is non-negotiable.

Rooted in this approach is the Triple E framework: Empowerment, Economy, and Ethics—forming the heart of the grander financial inclusion vision.

The 3Es - Empowerment, Economy, and Ethics

The 3Es shape the financial inclusion frontier. Fintech, with tools like biometric cardless payments, revolutionizes savings, investments, and lending. It’s more than an economic boost; it's a path to personal financial freedom, particularly for women.

Yet, as biometrics intertwine with AI and blockchain, ethical handling of this delicate data is crucial, backed by strict legal oversight.

Financial inclusion isn't a distant goal; it's within reach. The 2023 G20 Financial Inclusion Action Plan maps this out, spotlighting digital groundwork, cutting-edge tech, backing for MSMEs, and global teamwork aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Thanks to biometric solutions, an inclusive financial horizon isn't just a vision—it's unfolding.