‘Inclusion Plus’ Innovation Contest Winners

By MetLife Foundation

Social entrepreneurs all over the world are trying to find new business models that can bring market-led solutions to serious social, environmental and other challenges. MetLife Foundation recently teamed up with Verb, a firm that produces large-scale competitions in partnership with Fortune 500 companies, foundations and governments, to create Inclusion Plus—a competition to advance financial inclusion for millions of people across the world. Over the next three years, Inclusion Plus will run in 10 countries in seven languages, providing a minimum of $50,000 in grants in each country.

The first competition launched in Ireland early 2016. Verb and MetLife Foundation sought creative solutions to improve financial well-being in a country where nearly 45 percent of the adult population is underserved. Like many advanced economies, Ireland has a modern banking sector, but many of its households and small businesses still struggle financially. The Inclusion Plus “Final Five” includes a mix of ideas aimed at both households and businesses, from companies that are themselves a mixture of for-profit and nonprofit.

  • Basic Banking In Your Hand is a project of FinTech Innovations Ltd., a for-profit company founded to deliver digital banking solutions to financial institutions in Ireland. “Basic Banking In Your Hand” is a smartphone app that will enable bank customers to conduct transactions more easily and help banks serve more customers more efficiently and cost-effectively. Along with processing basic banking transactions, the app will integrate personal financial management tools designed to encourage users to commit to financial goals and work toward those goals as they go about their daily lives.
  • GRID Finance provides small and medium-sized Irish business owners access to capital to expand their businesses. The “GRID,” a peer-to-peer platform, allows individuals, corporations, funds or institutions to lend from as little as €5 up to millions to local credit-worthy businesses and to earn a return on their investment.
  • Initiative Ireland aims to launch Ireland’s first regulated personal lending marketplace. The goal is to democratize the financial lending marketplace by providing individuals a platform to borrow and lend that has the same credit screening and management services available to institutional lenders. Initiative Ireland plans to offer loans to borrowers at roughly half what that same loan would otherwise cost them, and to return better yields (5 percent to 7 percent) to lenders than they could earn in an institution-held deposit savings account. Initiative Ireland’s goal is to become Ireland’s Most Trusted Finance Company by 2020 by transforming the way ordinary Irish people borrow and lend into a more equitable and accessible model.
  • NALA (the National Adult Literacy Agency). One in four Irish adults has problems doing simple math. Financial concepts such as APR, equity and compound interest can be difficult even for more educated people to understand, but for somebody with weak skills, the financial world can be incomprehensible and intimidating. NALA has nationwide reach and a long history of success in raising functional literacy levels. It is now applying its proven model to the related issue of financial literacy, conducting research, publishing a plain English guide to financial terms and supporting awareness-raising events. NALA’s new initiative is an eight-week program called Manage Your Money to be delivered nationwide by professional adult literacy and numeracy tutors. The program will tackle the literacy, numeracy and IT barriers as well as the cultural sensitivities about discussing money that damage people’s financial well-being.
  • WeSavvy is developing a platform that captures lifestyle data from consumers’ apps and wearables and aggregates it into useful insights for financial services providers to develop responsive insurance products. WeSavvy’s platform tracks the customer’s activity levels (running, walking, cycling), sleeping patterns, resting heart rate and scores of other data, and provides the customer with the opportunity to earn rewards. The rewards could be applied to obtain gifts, defray premiums or even to fund microinsurance initiatives in developing countries. WeSavvy’s platform seeks to empower individuals with a game-like approach that gives them more control over their policies and transforms the traditional industry model from one of indemnification to one of prevention.

Grants totaling $50,000 will be distributed among the Final Five on Sept. 16 in Dublin following a live pitch to a VIP judging panel.

The partnership with Verb gives MetLife an opportunity to engage with local social entrepreneurs in a new and unique way. Approximately 20 percent of the MetLife Ireland’s office population in Dublin has volunteered as business mentors or judges for the competition. Mentors worked in teams to help the entrepreneurs address problems with an unusual angle that resulted in creative customer outreach campaigns and refined business plans.

Building on the success of Inclusion Plus Ireland, MetLife Foundation and Verb plan to expand the competition all over the world. Inclusion Plus China launched in May 2016, and India, Chile and Mexico will follow soon.