Faster, fit-for-purpose and fraud-proof: Digitalizing financial aid distribution
Euromoney, is part of the Delinian Group, Delinian Limited, 4 Bouverie Street, London, EC4Y 8AX, Registered in England & Wales, Company number 00954730
Copyright © Delinian Limited and its affiliated companies 2023
Accessibility | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Modern Slavery Statement
Sponsored Content

Faster, fit-for-purpose and fraud-proof: Digitalizing financial aid distribution

Sponsored by


Financial services and public sector development organisations are turning to innovative technology to secure access to financial aid.



Karby Leggett, 
global head of public sector and development organisations, Standard Chartered 

160x186Katharine-Steger  Katharine Steger, 
regional head, Europe, public sector and development organisations, Standard Chartered

The Meheba Refugee Camp in north-western Zambia is home to 12,000 refugees [1], each of whom rely on money from international aid organizations to survive. Not long ago, these funds took up to 10 days to reach the refugees’ pockets. Today, they can arrive within an hour.   

This change reflects a larger transformation in how aid is delivered globally. Nearly one-third of the world’s poorest people [2] live in countries that experience regular humanitarian crises such as natural disaster, disease and displacement by armed conflicts. Often, the first aid to arrive is physical: food, blankets, medicine and other emergency supplies. While this is vital to save lives at the beginning of a humanitarian crisis, the need soon shifts to financial aid in order to sustain them.

Physical to financial aid

That reality is reflected in the data. In 2018, total international humanitarian funding reached $28.9 billion, up an estimated 30% ($6.7 billion) since 2014.[3] The enduring challenge, however, has been distributing those funds safely, on time and to the right people. In regions suffering humanitarian crises, physical transportation infrastructure is often limited or even non-existent. Where it does exist, usage costs ‒ including security arrangements in some cases ‒ can make the cost prohibitively high.   

The benefits are enormous when aid is delivered and disbursed in an efficient and timely manner. Financial stability and independence start to take hold, and consumer spending patterns emerge. As local economies experience growth, new job opportunities arise. Over time, a helpful development cycle can emerge. 

To overcome the challenges of aid delivery, many development organizations have begun relying on mobile money, prepaid cards, e-vouchers and digital wallet solutions. Standard Chartered plays a key role in this, working with aid organizations, public sector bodies and development agencies to provide financial infrastructure such as cash management, payments and foreign exchange services. 

Standard Chartered has also beefed up its ability to accelerate the speed and ease of aid distribution in crisis situations by enabling expedited account opening and securing priority access to funding. The bank also offers a blockchain-based cross-border wallet remittance service in partnership with Ant Financial.[4] Using AlipayHK in Hong Kong and GCash in the Philippines, this service enables Filipino workers in Hong Kong to send money back home in real time, providing a convenient, secure and affordable way for overseas Filipino foreign workers to support families in need back home.

Financial inclusion and financial controls

Standard Chartered sees an opportunity to do even more. Already, the bank has rolled out mobile money solutions in more than 10 markets that are home to vulnerable communities. So long as the telecoms infrastructure supports this digital initiative, further expansion is planned.

In Zambia’s Meheba Refugee Camp, a vast area spread across nearly 700 square kilometres, a Standard Chartered mobile money solution is enabling the rapid disbursement of cash to the refugees. This solution – jointly developed by the bank and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – was awarded the 2018 Banker Magazine Bank of the Year Award for Financial Inclusion. 

The UNHCR pays a monthly physical cash stipend to each household in the camp, and prior to the rollout of the mobile money solution, refugees travelled to regional distribution centres to receive the funds. Once there, they would queue for up to 10 days before receiving the money, preventing them from engaging in more productive economic activities. At the same time, the large volume of cash payments proved extremely difficult to accurately audit, raising governance challenges around the process. 

To address this, Standard Chartered began working with mobile money partners to distribute SIM cards and register eligible beneficiaries for mobile money. Under this programme, UNHCR pays stipends directly to beneficiaries through Standard Chartered’s Straight2Bank Wallet platform. Payments can now happen in a flash and can be easily and fully audited. Refugees, instead of having to queue for days on end, now receive their funds within an hour.

Balancing risk, regulation and need

Although mobile money and other digital cash solutions are increasingly prevalent, gaps remain, especially in high-risk countries where international banks are unable to operate directly. Through digitization and partnerships, Standard Chartered is helping to meet urgent humanitarian needs whilst strictly adhering to international sanctions and regulatory requirements, as well as donor needs for transparency and accountability. 

In Somalia, Standard Chartered has a long-term partnership with Al Amal Express Exchange to disburse funds for the humanitarian sector. For this high-risk country, the bank has created a cash disbursement transaction model for its development organization clients. This is fully supported in the bank’s systems, processes and controls – including sanctions screening. 

Successfully screened transactions are transmitted to the bank’s local service provider Al Amal Express Exchange through an application programming interface (API). Funds are distributed to beneficiaries, and payment status data is returned for automatic confirmation and reconciliation, giving users full visibility over the end receipt of funds.

Standard Chartered’s mobile cash payment services are being used by development organizations around the world. ChildFund, a charity that helps deprived and vulnerable children through sponsorship programmes, uses the bank’s Straight2Bank Wallet service to deliver funds to the charity’s vendors and staff, to support beneficiaries directly.[5] Jhpiego, a charity affiliated with John Hopkins University and dedicated to mother and child health, is using Straight2Bank Wallet to instantly disburse cash to beneficiaries in Kenya.[6]

The bank’s regulatory, operational and technological expertise – coupled with on-the-ground knowledge across developing and frontier markets – have been instrumental in helping development organizations meet their humanitarian objectives. The result? Secure, timely and transparent aid delivery solutions, helping vulnerable people gain a new measure of financial independence and supporting the welfare of vulnerable communities.


[1] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Meheba Refugee Settlement Profile, 30 November 2018.
[2] Global Humanitarian Assistance, Key trends in global humanitarian assistance 2019, extreme poverty defined as those living on less than $1.90 per day, page 1, para 1.
[3] Global Humanitarian Assistance, Key trends in global humanitarian assistance 2019, page 1, para 3.
[4] We have been appointed by Ant Financial as core partner bank for its new blockchain cross-border remittance service, Standard Chartered press release, 25 June 2018.
[5], ChildFund to utilise Standard Chartered Straight2Bank wallet service, 03 November 2014. 
[6] Business Chief, Straight2Bank: the mobile banking solution driving growth in the developing world, 15 June 2018. 

About the Authors


Karby Leggett, Global Head of Public Sector and Development Organisations, Standard Chartered 

Based in Singapore, Karby became the Head of our Public Sector and Development Organisation (PSDO) team in June 2019, responsible for the Bank’s coverage of Ministries of Finance, Central Banks, Development Organisations and other Government related institutions across our global footprint. He was previously the Head of the Asia PSDO Business. Prior to his expanded role, Karby ran the Capital Markets business in the Greater China & North East Asia region. Before joining Standard Chartered, Karby worked at Goldman Sachs where he oversaw the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Africa sovereign ratings advisory and risk management. Karby has over 20 years of experience in capital markets, finance, risk management and sovereign ratings advisory and international affairs including a decade during which he worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Karby has lived in China, Korea, Japan and the Middle East, and speaks fluent Mandarin.


Katharine Steger – Regional Head, Europe, Public Sector and Development Organisations, Standard Chartered
Based in London, Katharine is European Head of Public Sector and Development Organisations client coverage, responsible for relationships with clients including sovereigns, quasi-sovereigns, central banks, public pension funds, supranationals, microfinance institutions, humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs.

Previously Katharine had a global remit in Standard Chartered’s Public Sector and Development Organisations team. Operating as COO for the segment, she worked on strategy, risk management and thematic issues, with focus areas including blended finance, microfinance and development priorities.  She also managed European client relationships, predominantly sovereigns, development organisations and NGOs.

In prior roles Katharine was Deputy Chief of Staff for the Group Chief Executive, responsible for external affairs; managed Standard Chartered’s relationships with international organisations, policy engagement and thought leadership platforms, building the Bank’s profile among decision makers and opinion leaders; and prior to that had a number of roles focussed on environmental finance & management, sustainability and project management. 



This material has been prepared by Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), a firm authorized by the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and PRA. It is not independent research material. This material has been produced for information and discussion purposes only and does not constitute advice or an invitation or recommendation to enter into any transaction.

Some of the information appearing herein may have been obtained from public sources and while SCB believes such information to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by SCB. Information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Any opinions or views of third parties expressed in this material are those of the third parties identified, and not of SCB or its affiliates.

SCB does not provide accounting, legal, regulatory or tax advice. This material does not provide any investment advice. While all reasonable care has been taken in preparing this material, SCB and its affiliates make no representation or warranty as to its accuracy or completeness, and no responsibility or liability is accepted for any errors of fact, omission or for any opinion expressed herein. You are advised to exercise your own independent judgment (with the advice of your professional advisers as necessary) with respect to the risks and consequences of any matter contained herein. SCB and its affiliates expressly disclaim any liability and responsibility for any damage or losses you may suffer from your use of or reliance on this material.

SCB or its affiliates may not have the necessary licences to provide services or offer products in all countries or such provision of services or offering of products may be subject to the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction. This material is not for distribution to any person to which, or any jurisdiction in which, its distribution would be prohibited.

You may wish to refer to the incorporation details of Standard Chartered PLC, Standard Chartered Bank and their subsidiaries at

© Copyright 2019 Standard Chartered Bank. All rights reserved. All copyrights subsisting and arising out of these materials belong to Standard Chartered Bank and may not be reproduced, distributed, amended, modified, adapted, transmitted in any form, or translated in any way without the prior written consent of Standard Chartered Bank.