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Digital Finance 2017

Since the end of the great crisis of 2007–10, the financial services industry began a process of accelerating change. New business models based on convergent technological developments are challenging the status quo of a long-established and traditional industry.

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The purpose of this document is to consider the latest developments in the financial services industry and to discuss how they might affect the ability for firms—particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—and individuals to access financing. The Connectivity Markets and Finance Division (CMF) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) looks at the factors that impede access to productive finance in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region, and determines how to improve access through public policies and financial engineering.

The overall thesis of this paper is that it seems plausible to think that the new business models of financial intermediation and capital markets organization, emerging from the adoption of convergent technologies, facilitate access to finance by SMEs and unbanked individuals, resulting in positive incentives for firms’ formalization and financial inclusion. The following points support this view:

  • New-entrant market lenders, with alternative intermediation models and advanced credit scoring techniques, are challenging traditional incumbent banks and pushing the financial services industry toward lowering lending spreads. They are also expanding the set of bankable firms and individuals.
  • The use of e-commerce, e-payments, and other digital channels allows firms and individuals to create a credible and transmissible digital history or identity. These data can be fed into artificial intelligence-based credit score engines that deliver more accurate credit assessments. These improved processes reduce asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders, facilitating access to financing. Furthermore, the increased benefits of having a digital history or identity are driving more firms and individuals toward formalization and financial inclusion.