How Empowering the Underbanked Will Create the Next Big Investment Opportunity

One of the greatest challenges in fintech is reaching the unbanked. Accessing poor communities is operationally complicated and their use of financial services is very limited.

Microfinancing institutions are only a partial solution and traditional loans do not work as an investment vehicle because they are risky for both parties: banks don't want to give, and poor don't want to take. To solve this puzzle we may use two creative concepts from financial engineering.

Individual investment contract

Instead of taking a loan, people promise part of their future income in exchange for money. This reduces the risk for farmers in case they cannot pay off the debt. This is already being practiced when corporations provide education grants to poor students in exchange for future employment.

Loan securitization

Instead of taking a single loan from banks, real estate developers issue debt securities and sell them to many institutions. Thus, the loan is divided into many small parts that may be traded on a secondary market, which spreads the risk for parties giving the credit. For conventional real estate loans, the maximum debt-to-value ratio is ~60%, while for securitized loans it is ~90%, which means that 50% higher risk is acceptable.

Personal securities

Combining these two concepts we arrive at personal securities – individual investment contracts issued in the form of securities that can be divided into small parts and traded on a secondary market. There is already an example of a personal securities offering in use: a software developer offered a part of his future income in order to move to Silicon Valley.

The use of personal securities can solve the risk puzzle of investing in poor communities. However, there are a number of practical problems to be solved in order for personal securities to be an efficient solution.
First of all, personal securities should be powered by proper technology. Offering many securities to many investors in dozens of different countries requires robust and scalable infrastructure. Blockchain technology is widely considered suitable for these purposes. In the last few years, providers of securities tokenization made serious progress and now enable convenient mass operations with securities. For example, the blockchain was used to reduce the entry threshold in a $22 million venture fund by 2,0000 times– from $1,000,000 to $500.

Another problem is the operational complexity. Using personal securities would require reaching poor communities, doing the legal groundwork of signing investment contracts, choosing investment opportunities, and gathering and distributing income. This requires wide collaboration between existing banking providers, governments, nonprofits, and startups.

A solution may be to organize everything as an investment fund that would issue securities to investors worldwide and use the proceeds to organize the investment process and do the investment itself. Pooling investment into funds can further reduce the risk for investors. It is better to do pilot projects to test the best structures.

The next big investment opportunity

Giving money to poor communities is the next big investment opportunity. It would not only directly benefit investors but also all businesses that can sell to poor communities. It can vastly improve the financial outcomes of developing countries. Most importantly, it can assist in finally ending extreme poverty and providing people with a dignified life.
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