Dutch queen says tech fears should not stop the poor getting banking

By Belinda Goldsmith

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Queen Maxima of the Netherlands urged financial regulators on Wednesday not to let fears over technology stall efforts to ensure everyone in the world has access to a bank account and credit to save money and build businesses.

Maxima said progress had been made since she was appointed the United Nations special advocate for financial inclusion 10 years ago, with about 70 percent of the world now having access to banking, insurance and credit compared to 51 percent in 2011.

But she said 1.7 billion adults globally still did not have an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider - with women in developing economies about 9 percentage points less likely than men to have a bank account.

"Financial inclusion is not the end but the means to increase family income, improve nutrition, increase access to health care ... education, and empower - especially women," Maxima told a side event at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Dutch queen said it was critical if the world was to achieve the United Nations' goals to end poverty and inequality by 2030 that people were included in financial systems.

She said mobile money and fintech had opened opportunities to connect people - particularly those sidelined like women in developing countries, farmers and the poor - and cautioned fears over cyber attacks and data privacy should not stop this.

"Technology today presents our best chance to reach these people," Maxima told an event marking her 10 years as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA).

"The challenges are that this new technology brings risks ... but get together the innovators with the regulators.

"If we are serious about this issue, we need to innovate and go beyond business as usual."

Argentine-born Maxima, 48, said she intended to continue in her role travelling around the world to encourage regulators and governments to treat financial inclusion as a priority.

Melinda Gates, who co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill Gates, backed Maxima, saying digital financial services had to reach women, marginalised people and the poor to create an equitable world.

"Money is power. If we want to empower people you have to make sure that they have the means for saving ... and bring them into the digital financial services," said Gates. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith; Editing by Rachel Savage. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)