Financial inclusion has been an ongoing issue around the world, and for the majority of Canadians, appropriate financial services are readily available and accessible.
However, we continue to witness several unbanked and underbanked communities around the world – whether it is rural and semi-urban parts of India and Mexico or even members of the Indigenous community in Canada. There are systemic barriers within the broader financial services space, and technology can play a critical role in driving greater financial inclusion.
BlocPal, a leading digital transaction platform offering a suite of financial services and applications to consumers and enterprise partners worldwide, has set out to be ahead of the curve. Its mission is to provide affordable and accessible financial solutions to communities all over the world. With recent announcements like mBnk driving financial inclusion for underbanked communities in India and a digital app for accessible banking for Indigenous communities in Canada, BlocPal has helped drive financial inclusion and has become a leader in the digital transaction landscape.
Techcouver sat down with Vaibhav Sinha, CTO of BlocPal, to discuss why financial inclusion is so important and what BlocPal is doing about it. Sinha has been a disruptor behind driving financial inclusion to underbanked areas through innovative technology and payment processing solutions.
Can you walk us through the technology behind BlocPal?
VS: BlocPal is a digital transaction platform that makes financial services more affordable and accessible by providing financial solutions to users worldwide. At BlocPal, we develop flexible, scalable, modular, cost-effective products while complying with all regulatory and legal obligations. We ensure that transactions remain secure and that the platform is highly scalable while keeping our users’ costs at a minimum. Through blockchain technology, biometric-based banking services, inexpensive micro ATM devices and digital wallet services, we are expanding financial inclusion past North America to Mexico, India and other regions in Asia and Africa.
Speaking of financial inclusion, how is BlocPal pushing it forward?
VS: BlocPal is currently working in many communities around the world to drive financial inclusion. With our top markets in India, Mexico and recently Canada, we’ve provided accessible financial solutions across the globe. We’ve created a space for users to access banking-like products through mobile and web applications, fingerprint-based cash withdrawal devices and many other innovations. By leveraging cloud infrastructure on GCP, Cloudflare and AWS, we’ve kept our costs down that we pass on to our users by keeping their per-transaction costs low. This has allowed us to reach more users without increasing the number of traditional ATMs or access to banking institutions in remote rural and semi-urban areas.
How does BlocPal’s technology scale and adapt to technologies in new markets?
VS: Because we operate in multiple geographies around the world, we can utilize the same infrastructure to average out the transaction volume peaks and troughs across time zones. When local laws prohibit hosting data outside their geographies, we leverage the local zones of cloud providers but use automatic scaling to keep costs down. We built our components to adapt them to different markets without rewriting or hosting a dedicated stack for each new market.
How is BlocPal positioning its technology as a leader in the tech industry?
VS: We are doing a few innovative things. We are laser-focused on our technology costs. We have a diverse team of advanced and experienced engineers that have built multiple applications for us and our partners.
We use our custom blockchain as an immutable, secure, transparent accounting ledger and KYC gatekeeper, in conjunction with our NoSql databases that help us scale with minimal costs. There are particular challenges with storing financial data on horizontally scaling databases that our incredible engineers have overcome.
We remain focused on meeting the needs of our end-user; therefore, we have designed our platform in a manner that enables other financial/fintech companies to offer their products and services as well. This aggregated model allows for a wide variety of products and services to be offered to the end-user in a convenient and affordable manner.
How can other companies develop their technology positioning through innovative products?
VS: Our learning has been that what works in North America isn’t always suitable for the rest of the world. My advice to companies in the fintech space for the underbanked or underserved population would be to keep their products simple to understand and use. Complications mean that the adoption falls dramatically after first use – in most cases, getting the customer to use the app even once can be challenging if the app is complicated. It’s true for all apps, but it is especially the case for our kind of financial apps. So, the most significant innovations are in making things more straightforward in this segment.
My other piece of advice is that building an architecture that minimizes tech spending is extremely important. Either because of government mandates or the nature of this market, we don’t have the option to charge a high MDR or a high per-transaction fee to pay for an expensive technology stack.
Looking forward, where would you like to see digital banking be in the future?
VS: The three areas of focus that I would like to see with digital banking in the future are:
- Cross-border payments
- Real-time payments/banking
- Branchless banking
However, the future is already here – depending on where in the world you are. Ironically, if you are in India, China or Africa, you are already at the cutting edge of digital banking. This includes access to financial products at your fingertips through your smartphones. We now need to get to a stage where most of these products are also available on feature phones – which is still a big thing in the developing world.
If you are in Canada, the future will hopefully bring similar advances in real-time payments and settlements by utilizing the Real-Time Rail that Payments Canada is proposing now.
What is the most significant learning experience from your position at BlocPal?
VS: If I had the opportunity to look back two years ago, I would tell myself to go all-in from the very beginning. Be more aggressive in adopting new technologies that allow for rapid development, iterations and releases.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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