Building Inclusive Financial Systems

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program sees Building Inclusive Financial Systems as a critical strategy to maximize financial security for all.

The pandemic has proven that when our consumer-facing financial systems are under pressure, large parts fail—and they fail primarily by leaving out the most vulnerable and historically excluded in society. Though our government, the private sector, and community organizations moved quickly to blunt the economic impact of the crisis, millions of Americans were passed over by the response. 

The effects of this disparity fell disproportionately on individuals and businesses within Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, who often lack access to credit, financial services, and even the physical presence of financial institutions in their communities. However, this is not a pandemic-specific problem — exclusion is baked into our current systems. 

To address systemic challenges historically, governments across the world have established national “financial inclusion” initiatives designed to provide more people with access to the products, tools, and protections of a developed financial system. By doing so, these countries aim to improve the financial position of their most vulnerable citizens. In the United States, the Federal Government has yet to establish such a domestic initiative, despite having both a long history of supporting financial inclusion initiatives globally, and a vibrant array of American organizations, academics, companies, and professionals who, collectively, comprise a robust “financial inclusion” field. This moment provides a powerful opportunity to intentionally build the next generation of financial systems that are structurally inclusive and build financial resiliency as part of the coming economic recovery.

The time is now. The poor state of our national public financial health is on display, with the cracks in our financial systems fully exposed. At the same time, we find ourselves in a unique moment where financial services providers have made bold public commitments to become truly inclusive, where recent advances in technology help make those commitments possible, and where government officials are ready and willing to call for change. Let’s not squander this moment.

Aspen FSP’s current work in Building Inclusive Financial Systems is an initiative of the Global Inclusive Growth Partnership, a collaboration between the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. This work has been previously supported by the MetLife Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.