Banking the unbanked in the Solomon Islands

The roll out of mobile banking in the Solomon Islands has brought banking services to more than 24,500 people - including 15,500 previously unbanked - reaching people in all nine provinces across the country.

"Investing in the growth of mobile banking… is an important part of creating positive change in communities and the Bank’s social license to operate."
Geoffrey Buchanan, CEO ANZ Solomon Islands

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For most Pacific Island Countries, financial inclusion remains a key priority for governments, regulators and banks alike, with 75 per cent of the population across the Pacific still living without access to regular banking services.

While operational and logistical considerations make the task of ‘banking the unbanked’ challenging at times,  the emergence of rural banking products and services paired with financial literacy education is making a significant difference to the way people are thinking about and managing their money across the Pacific.

This is particularly evident in rural communities where people have traditionally travelled significant distances to reach a branch and have often had limited access to education about money management, planning and budgeting. Mobile banking is bridging this gap by providing access to essential banking services without needing to visit a branch and is quickly becoming the channel of choice for many customers in the Solomon Islands. 

If we take the example of ANZ – and we are the biggest institution in the Solomons - we have 83 goMoney merchants operating in the islands and intend to increase this to 120 by September 2015.

The Solomon Island MoneyMinded Impact Report presents the findings from a survey conducted by the University of the South Pacific to understand the impact of the MoneyMinded program in the Solomon islands.

Statistics from the report reveal that the majority of respondents acquired useful and relevant financial knowledge and skills for their daily management of money, more positive attitudes and behaviors towards managing money, and a future orientation that involves setting financial goals, budgeting, saving and investing.

Most had started saving and those who were already saving before the program increased the amount they saved. In addition, the MoneyMinded program has had a positive impact on the respondents’ outlook on life, as well as indirect positive effects on the participants’ families and friends.

Designed to boost financial inclusion in communities and informed by community consultation, MoneyMinded is delivered through partnerships with local community organisations and government. The program has been successfully delivered to some 6000 people across the Pacific since it was introduced in 2010.

Investing in the growth of mobile banking and supporting this with dedicated financial literacy training, with a particular focus on making banking more accessible to women, is an important part of creating positive change in communities, contributing to what is known as an institution’s “social license” to operate. That is, the return it provides to a society that encourages communities to allow the institution to continue operating and making profits.

ANZ’s MoneyMinded financial literacy program for adults has now been adapted to include a dedicated mobile banking module, following the recent expansion of mobile phone banking in the country. It is a key example of how an institution can return something to the community (and which of course is in our own interests as well).

Working with our community partners, we hope to bring about a shift in participants’

mindset and behaviour towards managing money and the use of mobile banking. Ten of our ANZ goMoney Sales Agents have been trained to deliver the program, helping us to target new goMoney customers for the mobile banking MoneyMinded training program.  

Since 2010 MoneyMinded has been delivered to almost 6,000 people across the Pacific, including over 300 Solomon Islanders.  

There is a formal element to this social licence as well: this expansion follows an agreement signed between ANZ and the Australian Government last August to support the increased roll out of mobile banking to remote and rural areas in the Solomon Islands.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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