Smart Financial Inclusion

New technologies to propel Smart Cities development, fostering a new "smarter" society.*

No one doubts the influence of new concepts, sharing and creative economy in developing Smart Cities. Since the eighties the American economist and social scientist Richard Florida explores the role of the creative class in the urban development and wealth. According to him, the Creative Class is one of the key driving forces for economic development of post-industrial cities in the United States. And he was completely right! Somehow this social diversity based on some of the new groups of creative people, including also artists and bohemians was one of the key points for the raise and boom of the new tech-paradises in USA. If we combine the social diversity proposed by Florida with the new reality of the millennials, the new generation that is now reaching the working and consumption market, we have pure energy, a rich fuel to drive the development of our smart cities. This prolificous scenario, and the amazing opportunities that can arise from this exchange of knowledge and culture might be threatened, however, due to issues that point out to the opposite direction: bureaucracy and difficulties of official authorities in dealing with such diversity may realy compromise the ability of cities to embrace innovation.

I have had a fantastic time in China, you can bet; but I never felt 100% integrated.

Although I was formally working, and consequently helping the local and amazing quick development and paying all my regular and compulsory taxes, as any other "beijinger", at the end of the day I was neither a citizen nor somebody fully absorved by the local environment.

No voice to discuss or suggest about “my" city management and no credit offer, even having a local bank account. One should be thinking: “well, it is China! It is a very peculiar institutional landscape over there!”. If you are one of those, just think about the reality of your city. I live now in Italy, and even though it is a country fully integrated into the European Union I face the same sort of issues that I used to face in China. We can also see similar scenarios in almost all of the big cities around the world, in which diversity is always followed by significant challenges in terms of promoting the integration of those individuals, both in terms of public policies as well as to access to products and services available localy.  Back to Florida’s insight, social diversity may be the key point for an outstanding creative class, but it will not be productive if there is not enough integration as the basis for it to flourish. 

That is why this article will explore new solutions that are emerging to promote a full and deep social inclusion in smart cities of the future. Social integration can be addressed through several points of reference, and We will look at it through the economic point of view. In a very elementary analysis, social inclusion will definitely reflect on individuals access to products, services and goods, from the basic needs to high-end ones. No doubts, in this sense, that a considerable proportion of our purchase power depends on the level of credit that is available within a certain market. If in the past my grandfather had to save money during 20 years to by his first car - when he was almost 40 years old - nowadays my son would be able to buy his first one even before getting his driving license and keep paying it for the next 20 years. But He “would be able”, I said. If, on the one hand, the perspectives and need for credit have changed drastically, on the other our finance and banking systems are still very traditional, and not unusually significantly facing new regulations that are a threat to the current speed and mobility seen on other areas of the global market. They can even be following the digitalization trend that offers 24/7 on line services, but in terms of credit analysis most of them are still doing as it was 50 years ago. To get access to credit you need to have a credit record, a real guarantee or at least some sort of sponsor or guarantor. As a consequence, we are keeping out of this credit market not only non-residents and foreigners, but also a big amount of the new generation workers, the millennials, and a wide range of individuals whose profile fall out of the traditional credit risk assessment. This generation doesn't have a credit record now, mainly because they are fresh in the market, and its intrinsec dynamism will probably not allow them to have a traditional one in the near future. They are known as the job-hopping generation, with global mobility.

Several researches suggest that by 2020 they will be roughly 50% of the USA workforce and 75% of the global workforce by 2030, so it was about time to start developing smart credit solutions to meet the demands of these new global citizens.

Smart Credit is a concept that is becoming widely spread in newly industrialized countries such as Brazil, Mexico and India. They are heavily populated markets with a young population. However they are all huge economies in terms of GDP, and credit is not only a local need, but also an important economic tool to promote economic development and social inclusion. One of the most successful cases in this field comes from a Brazilian company called Zetrasoft. It is a mature software and business intelligence company that decided to promote a concept that disrupted the credit market. After several successful pilot trials within Brazilian market, its Founder, Mr. Renato Araujo, launched a global startup project, based on the same platform used in Brazil, but conceived in light of the needs to integration and inclusion that the smart cities already face. With headquarters in the world’s FinTech paradise, London, this new initiative, called Salaryfits, is promising to spread the word to many other countries. Within less than 18 months, they are already operating in global scale, with projects being piloted in India, Portugal, Italy and Mexico.

Salaryfits has combined 2 traditional finance tools to develop the product they called ZmartCredit™: Salary deduction loans and Big Data deep integration, powered by a cutting-edge BI technology. Their top secret project, that will be started in the near future, will be even more innovative by applying new concepts of IoT to credit management in a personal level. They already manage more than 4.5 million accounts around the world, so you can imagine the disruption that initiatives like this can produce. Another important issue for them is promoting Financial education, which they have been doing since 2012.

According to Mr. Renato Araújo, a conscious management of personal credit is the key point for a wealthier economy.

The basic solution proposed by Salaryfits is a BI tool to integrate fastly and efficiently the credit offer from the local providers to the payroll systems of entities; and it doesn't matter if those of public administration or of private companies . Salaryfits will process this information and allow the credit providers to better access the credit profile of the employees of those entities. This technology helps to reduce credit risks and enables employees to get interest rates lower than other modalities. It works well to all stakeholders involved: the local financial institutions and other providers, companies and employees (Citizens), that can get access to cost-effective and convenient credit lines, with the possibility of comparing costs and doing simulations on-line – in the same way that we currently do when searching for flight tickets and hotel rooms in Kayak or TripAdvisor. Once the individuals decide what the best offer is, they can easily get the credit from the institution chosen and the instalment/repayment will be automatically deducted monthly from their salary. It means that it does not matter if you are or not a citizen or have or not a previous credit record or even a good credit score, you can get a good and fair credit offer whenever you need it. A process that untill now has been totally connected to your social status is becoming smarter and tailor-fit to our new Smart Citizens profile.

This type of solution, that is truly commited with sustainability, can also be a key element to foster financial inclusion. Through their work within Indian market, for example, Salaryfits is talking to a couple of financial providers in order to offer the first set of financial products for those who have never had access to financial institutions before. Besides their usual credit solution, They are partnering with pre-paid cards and e-wallets providers in order to offer those products to empoloyees that usually receive their payment in cash or check. Those employees will, through this solution, have their e-wallet or card and top it up conveniently on a monthly basis, all in a very secure and convenient transaction. The best part of it is that they can have access to those without the need to go through painful, demanding and bureaucratic KYC’s procedures.

It is definitely through smart and technological solutions like these that we can help our cities to improve the environment within which we are going to live, and no doubt that the more we innovate and integrate, the more we are going to live in an inclusive and wealthy society.

Smart Financial Inclusion smart city Economic sustainability Smart city India Social inclusion credit solution Environmental sustainability Digitization

About the author

Renato de Castro

Smart City Expert


He has 20+ years of professional experience in developing market entry strategies and managing investments attraction to smart cities development worldwide and he is mentoring and advising startups for "going-global" strategies.

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