Broad-based and inclusive financial systems significantly raise growth, alleviate poverty, and expand economic opportunity. Households, small enterprises, and the rural poor often have difficulty obtaining financial services for a multitude of reasons, including transaction costs, perceived risk, inadequate infrastructure, and information barriers. Yet many financial institutions are now making profitable inroads into underserved markets through formal banking, investment in equities, venture capital, postal banks, and microfinance. Access to Finance addresses the challenges of making financial systems more inclusive, emulating successful ventures in new markets, and utilizing technologies and government policies to support the expansion of financial access. The contributors examine many dimensions of financial access, including: • Measuring financial access • Understanding the impact of expanded access • Examining alternative institutional models • Exploring new technologies and information infrastructure • Evaluating government policies toward outreach.
Michael S. Barr is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School and a nonresident senior fellow in Metropolitan Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as chair and now is on the Executive Committee of the Section on Financial Institutions of the Association of American Law Schools, and he was co-organizer of the Law School's Conference on Globalization, Law & Development. Anjali Kumar is a financial access issues adviser in the Financial Sector Operations and Policy department at the World Bank. Prior to joining the Bank, she served as a consultant to the Ministry of Industry in the government of India, and she held a fellowship at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. Robert E. Litan is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation. Among his many books is Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity (Yale University Press, 2007), written with William J. Baumol and Carl J. Schramm.