We Are BFA
Founded in 2006, BFA is a global consulting firm leveraging finance and technology to innovate solutions for a sustainable and equitable world where people have agency over their future and their most pressing challenges are pro-actively addressed in a timely manner.
We work at the frontiers of applied research and innovation. Through our knowledge, skills, and experience we harness data science, economic analyses, financial tools, artificial intelligence, human-centered design, and lean product development. We apply our approach to consumer research, the development of new business models and products, policy design and implementation, and the building of collaborative ecosystems.
Our aim is for this work to contribute towards effective and sustainable development, poverty reduction, fulfilling employment in the age of automation, the bridging of digital divides, better participatory and evidence-informed governance, and mitigation of the negative impacts of migratory and climate crises.
We are deepening and broadening our work to leverage the opportunities presented by a rapidly digitizing global economy. Our aim is to help drive proactive responses to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Among them, growing economic inequality even as the number of people living in absolute poverty declines. At BFA, we have a multi-disciplinary, nimble, client-centric approach that we apply across our work, from customer research to project, product, and policy design.
Whom Do We Serve?
We work successfully with institutions that are committed to developing innovative, inclusive and sustainable economies. Our clients include financial institutions, technology companies, central banks, policymakers, investors, development agencies and donors. Together, with partners and clients, we craft efficient solutions that enable individuals, organizations, and communities to address vulnerabilities and shape the future, creating a sustainable and equitable world.
Well before the emergence of microfinance in Bangladesh in the mid-seventies, people struggling on lower incomes were actually relying on many well-established financial instruments – susu collectors, savings groups, burial societies, money lenders, money guards, money boxes – that are still prevalent today. When Grameen Bank began experimenting with microloans to poorer people in Bangladesh in 1976, the world took notice. By 2005, Grameen had lent just under US$5 billion to millions of people in poverty or on low income. Grameen’s success ignited a worldwide movement of microfinance institutions aimed at changing the lives of low-income customers (mostly women) through microcredit. It also spurred a fresh look at how other financial products–particularly savings and insurance–might spur greater financial inclusion. Looking back, it is clear that improvements in people’s lives arising from microfinance were smaller–and reached fewer people–than the financial inclusion industry had claimed or expected.
2006 to 2010
David Porteous founded BFA in 2006 at the start of the mobile money revolution.
Safaricom launched its M-Pesa mobile money service that year, offering a new way of sending money from person to person. Five years later, more than two-thirds of the adult Kenyan population was using M-Pesa, inspiring competition from banks and radically altering the landscape of access to financial services.
Against this background, BFA first specialized in guiding policymakers, donors, and regulators in harnessing mobile phone technology for financial inclusion. Among many others, we advised the Central Bank of Kenya on how to encourage M-Pesa and other digital financial services while still protecting vulnerable consumers. BFA also advised banks, mobile operators, and payment providers on their business cases, market entry strategies and ways to develop new digital financial products with a sound understanding of the risks involved.
2011 to 2018
In 2011, we embraced the opportunity to demonstrate that large financial institutions, and not just smaller institutions like microfinance institutions and cooperatives, were capable of providing sustainable savings options to people on low incomes. GAFIS was a four-year project that worked globally with five large banks to introduce or tailor savings products for the mass market. The project achieved its aim of reaching 500,000 new, low-income savers and gave BFA a deeper understanding of the mass market and the economics of providing savings products. We also learned that it takes all types of financial institutions to build the range of services needed by any one customer.
From GAFIS, we collaborated with other funders to co-create larger action research projects, including: OPTIX, FIBR, and Catalyst Fund. Action research projects that are multi-year, multi-million dollar projects mandated to share lessons learned with the financial services industry. BFA is also helping financial regulators and supervisors to encourage financial inclusion and strengthen their oversight of the financial sector through an embrace of new technology, with its RegTech for Regulators Accelerator (RA) program pioneering a range of prototypes with several authorities.
While this was a period of dramatic growth for both the financial industry and for BFA, we recognize that the actual results for customers were disappointing. As confirmed in the 2017 Global Findex database analysis, we learned that acquiring a basic banking account has not yielded meaningful improvements to the overall quality of life for people with low incomes.
Our team has grown to meet these challenges and areas of expertise, supplementing our traditional strengths in customer insights, business, and financial modeling, policy and regulatory development, with new expertise in fintech, and quantitative analytics. Moreover, through our work, we have decided to move beyond the concept of financial inclusion to pursue the more challenging goal of strengthening the true meaning and impact of finance for life.
In 2019 we undertook a thorough review of BFA’s strategy. Our vision became more ambitious. Through our work, we are contributing to building inclusive and competitive economies, to empower people to improve their lives and to create a sustainable and equitable world. We help drive proactive responses to some of the world’s most pressing challenges including effective and sustainable development, poverty reduction, achieving fulfilling employment in the age of automation, bridging digital divides, developing better participatory and evidence-informed governance, and mitigating the migratory and climate crises.
We work at the frontiers of applied research and innovation. In addition to our own knowledge, skills, and experience we harness data science, economic analyses, financial tools, artificial intelligence, human-centered design, and lean product development. Together with partners and clients, we craft efficient digital solutions that enable individuals, organizations, and communities to address vulnerabilities and shape their own future.