CaixaBank promotes financial inclusion across Spain
For Efma’s summer series on sustainability, María Luisa Martínez Gistau, Executive Manager of Communication, Institutional Relations, Brand and CSR at CaixaBank shares an insight into the bank’s drive for financial inclusion.
Financial inclusion is a principal line of action of CaixaBank’s Socially Responsible Banking Plan, explains Martínez. “For us, financial inclusion means having access to basic financial products and services that cater to the needs of all people and that are provided both responsibly and sustainably,” she continues.
It plays a key role in poverty reduction, as well as the promotion of economic growth and social cohesion, which in turn has a considerable impact on individuals’ and households’ wellbeing, particularly in the most vulnerable segments of society. Indeed, there is a high correlation between poverty and exclusion from the formal financial sector.
“This is why promoting financial inclusion is in CaixaBank’s DNA and therefore, one of our strategic priorities. Access to a bank branch, ATM or an online banking platform, access to credit, and financial literacy, are all crucial elements of a wider strategy to fight against financial exclusion.”
CaixaBank follows through on this commitment through four main action levers, outlined below. This strategy puts the bank on track to contribute to 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, at the same time, to fulfill its corporate mission of improving its customers’ financial wellbeing while helping society to prosper.
First, CaixaBank strives to maintain a wide network of branches, therefore guaranteeing access to financial services for the vast majority of the Spanish population. This determination has seen the bank secure the biggest banking branch network in Spain.
“Having access to a bank account is a first step towards higher levels of financial inclusion, since it allows people to save money and send and receive payments. In Spain, we are present in more than 2,000 towns, having the biggest banking branch network in the country. We are in 100% of towns and cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and in 94% of those with more than 5,000 inhabitants. In the coming years, following our Strategic Plan 2019-2021, we will commit to our rural network, maintaining the number of rural branches (AgroBank), which is now at around 1,100 in total.”
Secondly, CaixaBank encourages financial inclusion by making its channels (branches, ATMs, online platforms) accessible and adapted to everyone, including people with disabilities.
“When it comes to accessibility, 86% of all branches are now accessible (100% in the case of new branches), and 96% of our ATMs are 100% accessible to people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. This strategy complements our digitalization process, which is allowing our customers to access their bank any time any place through our online platforms, making our services more accessible to foster the inclusion of people with physical or cognitive difficulties. Accessibility now permeates all channels.”
Thirdly, CaixaBank offers products and services for those at risk of exclusion, principally through its social bank, MicroBank, the only Spanish bank dedicated to microfinance.
“As for access to credit, we channel this through MicroBank, the largest European microfinance institution. Since its inception in 2007, MicroBank has provided 4 billion euros in microcredits, and according to a report by ESADE Business School, it has contributed to 200,000 jobs creation since then.”
“In 2018, MicroBank granted 116,789 microcredits, with a total volume of 772 million euros, helping 100,000 families to cover their needs and helping setting up more than 9,500 new businesses. Microcredits are a powerful tool in championing enterprises and setting up microcompanies. 62% of microcredits granted have been used to set up new businesses.”
“Aside from CaixaBank’s basic account, the bank offers a Social Account, which guarantees financial inclusion to people in financial hardship by granting them access, free of charge, to a current account. In 2018, 24,110 of these accounts were opened (close to 100,000 since the start of the program).”
“When it comes to housing, CaixaBank has an active policy of helping people overcome the problems of finding their first home. The bank’s social housing stock is of over 22,000 homes, with monthly rents starting from €60. In 2018, more than 31,000 customers with mortgage loans and experiencing financial problems, received help. 1,889 dations in payments were granted too in the same year.”
Finally, CaixaBank promotes finance culture in all sectors of society to generate knowledge among the population and in order to empower responsible financial decisions and management.
“In the field of financial education, in 2018 CaixaBank launched its Financial Culture Plan, with the aim of improving the level and quality of society’s financial knowledge. We have a financial culture website on basic finances with innovative digital content created and posted on the main social media networks – YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – to reach the maximum amount of people.”
“CaixaBank promotes training workshops and educational initiatives aimed at different segments of the population, and throughout all phases of life. In 2018, around 900 workshops and sessions were delivered through different series of programs with more than 14,400 participants in total. Also in 2018, CaixaBank released two publications to bring saving planning and the stock markets closer to children: Lola’s Bike (with 30,000 copies in the first edition) and Operation Cupcake (150,000 copies distributed in 2018).”