IFC Digital Finance Tools: Responsible Investing in DFS

The Guidelines for Responsible Investing in Digital Financial Services aim to benefit digital finance customers, providers and market ecosystems in managing both opportunities and risks associated with digitalization. The Investor Guidelines are anchored in the G20 High Level Principles for Digital Financial Inclusion (G20 HLPs) which are the most comprehensive standards in digital financial inclusion.

As signatories, IFC and co-leading investors commit to: (1) transforming principles into actionable steps aligned with due diligence; (2) catalyzing responsible digital financial inclusion models to help the underserved, including women; and (3) promoting private-public partnerships to share lessons towards resilience and sustainability.

In 2018, IFC and leading investors launched the Investor Guidelines to navigate new opportunities with evolving risks for sustainable growth and resilience. Today, there are over 130 Signatories representing investors and innovators for digital inclusion across 50 countries. In March 2022, IFC transitioned the convening role of the Responsible Finance Forum to the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI).

Investor Guidelines and Definitions

We embrace digital financial services (DFS) as a priority to drive development of inclusive financial systems. We will actively support responsible DFS providers to innovate and expand the range of financial services available to underserved groups to help them reduce their vulnerability, build assets, and mitigate their risks for an inclusive digital economy. We as investors commit to make responsible investment choices. We commit to supporting improved board governance and management commitment such that access to finance generates resilient, sustainable and value-added growth towards creating markets and opportunities for broader sustainable development.

We acknowledge that investors play a role in ensuring that the risks that emerge from innovation are borne by those that are equipped to absorb them, i.e., not by end customers. Investors will identify and assess risks during their due diligence process and manage these during the course of investment. We encourage our investees to incorporate risks for customers or consumers into their business models and operations for a more comprehensive risk management framework.

We support a prudent and proportionate legal and regulatory framework. As responsible investors, we commit to ensure compliance to existing regulations (including, by our investee companies) and to engage productively with policymakers so that the regulatory framework reflects both customer protection concerns and commercial concerns, and financial crime risk.

We recognize the need for an ecosystem of enabling infrastructure for DFS and encourage interoperability, where appropriate, within that ecosystem. We encourage investee companies to take responsibility for the actions of agents, employees, and third-party service providers across the value chain. We will support investees to implement appropriate mechanisms for responsible provision of services along the value chain and encourage investees that provide infrastructure services to providers of DFS to apply these Guidelines along the chain.

We encourage the development, use and implementation, as relevant to market standards and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, of customer identity and authentication systems by DFS providers. We promote the responsible use of data and practice of data management, including back-end technology infrastructure and/or other mechanisms to protect the privacy and security of customer data and help strengthen approaches for informed customer consent. We encourage the assessment of risk to both customers and providers in adopting various approaches and technologies.

We encourage and support investees to apply fair, risk-based and transparent pricing for all financial products and services that is affordable to consumers while allowing for investees to be sustainable and provide balanced returns to investors. We strive to reassess and balance fair prices paid by customers and the return generated for investors/investees, based on a broader assessment of the risks impacting the DFS ecosystem, which include customers, providers and financial markets sector. For savings products, investors encourage and support investees to provide real returns on the deposits of customers.

We will promote and support investees to improve disclosure of terms, conditions and pertinent information to customers through transparent, timely and clear communication that is easily accessible. This includes appropriate product design and delivery as well as transparent disclosure of pricing by product or transaction (annualized/monthly terms), customer rights and obligations, and key supporting facts that enables customers to make informed decisions.

We will encourage and support investees to enhance customer services for feedback, effective problem or complaints resolution in a timely and responsive manner (including redress mechanisms) to build and sustain customer trust and improve the design and delivery of products and services.

We promote and support proactive, ongoing approaches that deliver innovative digital literacy & financial literacy and awareness initiatives for consumer protection, to help prevent over indebtedness and support financial capability, and informed decision-making throughout the customer relationship.

We encourage use of impact measurement industry standards for measuring and reporting lessons on responsible and sustainable performance by DFS providers.

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