Financial inclusion – a force for social change
When it comes to banking, proximity and accessibility to people matter.
Too often they are secondary thoughts. In Europe, more than 13 million adults, or 4% of the adult population, face financial exclusion, according to the European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) analysis of the Global Findex Database 2021. By equipping the unbanked and underbanked with the know-how and improving the access to financial services, banks have the potential to be a force for social change.
For too many people, the hurdles to basic banking are too high. At CaixaBank, as Spain’s leading bank by number of customers, lowering those hurdles is at the heart of everything we do. It is why financial inclusion is one of the ambitions of our Sustainable Banking Plan, which is one of the three pillars of our 2022-2024 Strategic Plan.
One of the ways in which we do this is by making proximity to customers a priority.
Proximity is at the heart of our financial inclusion strategy; it is why you will find a branch of CaixaBank in 99% of Spanish towns larger than 5,000 people.
It is why we are the only bank in 483 towns and villages and why 92% of Spaniards have a branch or agent in their municipality. In addition, we cover 675 more towns and villages through our 18 ‘ofibuses’ - our mobile branches that travel an average of 43,000 kilometres every month from town to town, covering the needs of rural areas across Spain. The service reaches more than 300,000 people.
AgroBank, CaixaBank’s service for the agrifood sector, also caters for the needs for the agrifood sector clients. This year, for example, it has approved loans with preferential conditions to help clients affected by the drought in the country.
Proximity is at the heart of our financial inclusion strategy; it is why you will find a branch of CaixaBank in 99% of Spanish towns larger than 5,000 people
Proximity in financial inclusion means also having accessible branches, ATMs, and agents embedded within local communities. This physical presence allows for more direct and immediate access to financial services, particularly for vulnerable groups like the elderly, who may not have reliable internet access or digital literacy skills. It ensures that individuals can easily visit a nearby branch or ATM to conduct transactions, seek assistance, or access essential banking services.
Our extensive branch network enables staff to adapt our services to the needs and characteristics of different communities. It allows them to understand the local context, engage with customers directly, and tailor their offerings accordingly. By being physically present, financial institutions can better serve diverse populations, including the elderly and those in remote or underserved areas.
Accessible finance for all
Merely operating a branch in every town doesn’t automatically make accessing financial services easier. Branches need to be adapted to meet the needs of all. This is not easy, as our branches are often in small, older buildings where retrofitting is difficult. But adaption is necessary.
All of our ATMs offer help videos available in sign language, and 88% of our branches are accessible for everybody. This commitment to accessibility extends to our cards too. We launched Spain’s first Visa card with Braille reading and writing code in order to make it easier for the visually impaired to make purchases.
Digital accessibility matters
While physical bank branches are an important part of CaixaBank’s strategy, we are also Spain’s leading bank in terms of number of digital customers.
Being a responsible bank means making sure our more vulnerable customers do not get left behind when a new innovation comes along. Customers should benefit from a personalised and convenient service, even when they are not physically present in a branch.
CaixaBank is the only commercial banking portal with an AA accessibility level, according to the W3C-WAI guidelines for 2.0 web content. W3C- WAI is an international community working to create web content that is accessible to people with disabilities. This ensures accessibility in terms of elements such as colour contrast, text size, images and layout.
Solutions for the underbanked
Other groups that face challenges accessing financial services include the underbanked, who are often young, unemployed, or working in low-wage jobs. As a society, we talk less about these groups. However, at CaixaBank, we are committed to working with them to develop financial solutions that meet their specific needs.
MicroBank, our wholly owned social bank and a leader in microfinance in Europe, being the biggest among the members of the European Microfinance Network by financing, helps people and businesses that are often overlooked by traditional banks. It provides loans and other financial services to help people start businesses, create jobs, and improve their financial well-being. In 2022 alone, MicroBank signed over 100,000 contracts and lent over €1 billion, with a focus on helping vulnerable families and other groups that hitherto had few resources open to them. Since its inception, 15 years ago, it has financed more than €8.7 billion in over 1.3 million social projects in Spain.
A multidimensional approach
There is no single solution to financial inclusion. Those who suffer from being unbanked and underbanked are incredibly diverse. No barrier is the same. That is why CaixaBank believes in a multidimensional approach to solving financial inclusion, spanning branches, digital, and micro finance.
The social and economic benefits of financial inclusion are potentially huge. When everyone has access to the right financial products and services, they are better able to manage their money and invest in their futures. We are committed to helping our customers achieve these goals.
This is the fifth and final article in a series produced by CaixaBank. Other articles in the series can be viewed on the following links: