Digital Solutions for Analog Agents
Agent networks are a backbone for the delivery of financial services. While the report refers specifically to the management of agent networks for the delivery of digital financial services, the findings presented here are relevant for the numerous forms of agent networks that the FIBR project worked with: networks of PAYGo sales agents, networks of micro or small merchants and distributors, or networks of cash in, cash out (CICO) points.
In many countries, such as in Kenya, these agents tend to be local micro- and small merchants who are increasingly using smartphones. Smartphones open up a new channel to collect data which can enable financial relationships for appropriate products. FIBR worked in Ghana to transition an agent network to using smartphones, so that these benefits can be better understood.
Strengthening agent networks with better digital tools can improve the whole retail financial system. Further, these agents would benefit from tools that improve operations, capture historical transaction data and enable deeper financial inclusion.
Given the integral and outdated nature of today’s agent networks, the opportunities for financial services providers are huge. We have invested in this research to learn about the current state of the industry, where it is headed, and the type of support that is needed. Therefore, this paper is written for industry professionals with some basic technical knowledge of digital finance and is relevant for donors, policymakers, banks, mobile network operators and fintech companies. We hope that the frameworks and information in this paper will help key industry stakeholders understand the importance of investing in agent networks, and what they might be able to do to help push the industry forward.