Financial inclusion in Latin America – statistics & facts


Financial inclusion is a necessary step for a country’s economic growth and development. Access to financial services allows individuals as well as companies to obtain the resources that enable them to increase consumption, savings, and investment. This step is so critical that it was included as a target within the first United Nations’ sustainable development goal of ending poverty. Latin America is considered the leading developing region to bridge the financial inclusion gap. With financial inclusion scores higher than 75 (out of 100) in 2019, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay ranked as the nations with best access to financial resources, even above leading Asian markets like India and the Philippines, both scoring 71 out of 100. In contrast, the lowest-ranked country was Venezuela, primarily due to its current state of widespread economic crisis.

However, Latin America’s bank density continues to lag behind other regions. Among the countries with the largest economies in Latin America, Mexico had the highest bank density with only 6.5 bank branches per 1,000 square kilometers in 2018. Of the nearly 13 thousand branches operating in the North American country, the financial group with the largest number of agencies was BBVA Bancomer, which was likewise the most profitable Latin American bank in 2019. Brazil, on the other hand, had only 2.4 bank branches per 1,000 kilometers in 2018, ranking among the lowest of the region’s major economies. Nearly 21 thousand branches operate in the South American country, predominantly in the southeast region, where several of the largest cities are located.It is also due to this lack of physical access that the amount of unbanked population in Latin America is still a big concern. In Colombia, for instance, more than one third of adults did not use any financial product as of 2018. Of this group of people, those older than 65 years were some of the most reluctant to the financial system. Meanwhile, in Brazil, aversion to the financial system is more common among women. Thus, from the nearly 45 million unbanked population registered as of May 2019, almost 60 percent were women.

Besides the traditional methods used to enable financial inclusion, Latin America is home to a vibrant fintech scene, which is improving the delivery of financial services in the region. As of 2019, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia had the largest number of fintech startups in Latin America. Among these new companies, Nubank – a Brazilian fintech platform – stands out as the largest digital bank outside Asia, reaching more than 10 million clients in 2019. As the choice of technological alternatives increases, more than 141 million people in Brazil, over 82 million people in Mexico, and nearly 30 million people in Colombia have come to use fintech services such as digital payments, alternative lending applications, and digital banks as of 2019.

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