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Today, more than 2 billion people – mainly those living below the poverty line – lack access to basic financial services, according to the latest World Bank estimates. Why is this important to address? Studies have shown, and continue to prove, that financial inclusion plays an integral role in reducing poverty and achieving inclusive, sustainable growth worldwide.

Financial services are a gateway to education, health, housing, these are basic necessities to growth and development. Access to financial services, such as savings and credit, is a critical step in enabling economic opportunity and empowerment, ultimately helping people who have been disadvantaged – whether due to poverty, conflict, or social bias – to gain control over their lives.

At Uphold, we see our services and those of our partners enabling financial inclusion as empowerment tools for those who are excluded from existing banking systems. With this in mind, we are proudly committed to providing everyone, everywhere with secure and responsible financial services.

The World Bank identifies cost and travel distances as two of the key reasons that 73% of the world’s poor remain unbanked. This is where solutions powered by technology can play a massive role. The increasing ubiquity of the mobile phone and growing understanding and acceptance of digital currency means the opportunity and reach continue to rise.

Uphold’s digital wallet, for example, provides individuals excluded from the banking system with a safe place to move and store their money, without cost and without borders. Within the platform, which is free to join, members can instantly move, hold, or convert between any of the 25 currencies on the platform at zero cost, with currencies converted at the mid-market rate meaning no hidden fees in the exchange, bringing massive efficiencies and cost savings over traditional methods. Accessible from any connected device, Uphold is unique in being available to individuals and businesses around the world, unlike banks whose operations are are geographically siloed by country.

With these advantages in mind, we begin to see how this kind of digitization of money and financial services, enabled by new technology, can help open doors for previously excluded communities and forward financial inclusion.

There is no doubt that barriers to global financial inclusion still exist and that’s why we’re actively working to address these: by working closely with local partners to integrate market relevant on-ramps and off-ramps; by working with innovators, who leverage our open API, to develop new tools and solutions for financial access and by promoting transparency, accountability and inclusion within the industry.

Uphold was founded on the belief that everyone, everywhere – no matter their race, religion, gender, or income level – has the right to fair and transparent financial services. Not only do we understand that diversity and inclusiveness is integral to success, we feel it is just the right thing to do.

Within our ethos of inclusion, Uphold is actively developing partnerships around the world, creating a truly borderless platform for financial services. In doing this, we look to understand local markets and cultural practices around money, and cater to and integrate with those systems.

If you’re a local service provider, business, NGO, or developer working on a similar mission to drive global access to fair, safe, and transparent financial services, we’d love to work with you. Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or on twitter at @dianacbiggs.

Let’s make 2016 the year of financial inclusion.

Onwards and Upwards!

Diana Biggs

VP, Head of Growth & Partnerships, UK & EMEA