A Sharing of Ideas: How cross-country exchanges can foster innovation

By Brenton Peck, Senior Manager, CFSI

Pictured: Joonsang Ahn, Hyuncha Choe, Kelcey Hwang, Soohyun Jung, Jongik Lee, Sera Park, Brenton Peck and Krishna Thacker

A Sharing of Ideas: How cross-country exchanges can foster innovation

Technology has given us new tools to communicate, share experiences and learnings, and collaborate. A physical trip to another region can help push social entrepreneurs, impact investors and other leaders in the financial health space beyond existing paradigms to quickly build relationships and see proof-of-concepts from other markets that inspire them back in their home market.

Recently, CFSI and MetLife Foundation hosted five social entrepreneurs from South Korea to exchange ideas and learnings with U.S. nonprofits, social enterprises, impact investors and financial health fintech companies. The goal was to deepen the groups’ understanding of the financial struggles facing consumers and to gain exposure to cutting-edge nonprofit models and partnerships. CFSI and MetLife Foundation believe that exchanges like this allow for the cross-pollination of ideas and for innovative models to be tested and replicated in new markets and environments, helping the participants come up with lasting solutions that will have a positive impact on consumer financial health in the U.S. and South Korea.

There were three main themes that made an impact on the South Korean social entrepreneurs.

1. Improving financial health at the community level

After meeting with three different nonprofits, The Financial Clinic, LIFT, and Accion US, the group saw three different community-based approaches in the US. Some of the key learnings from the meetings were:

  • While each organization had a different client set or approach to community financial health, they all applied a high touch coaching model. These models ranged from individual meetings to establish clear financial health goals to introducing and sharing tools to assist with budgeting. Soohyung Juhn of the Youth Money Training Center noted that he was inspired by learning more about the online financial platform and financial education and consultations.
  • The Korean participants expressed interest in potentially replicating some of the tools upon returning home but had questions about how the coaching model might scale and how these approaches could be adopted for the Korean market where people might be more hesitant to share details on their financial health.

2. Fintech solutions and innovation labs as a catalyst for improving financial health

The group met with the CFSI staff that run the Financial Solutions Lab and a few fintechs based in the Bay Area that are developing an array of innovative solutions to address existing needs of U.S. consumers.

  • Meetings with organizations such as Mission Asset Fund, an organization that digitized lending circles, was a great first-hand opportunity to see the ambition of the fintech sector in the U.S.
  • The challenges being addressed by the fintechs and the Financial Services Lab highlighted the potential for creating a program that can help to identify, test, and scale financial health innovations in the Korean market.

3. Behavioral economics is changing the types of solutions we are designing

Led by the innovations first pioneered by behavioral economics, one of the biggest changes in recent years is in the increased focus on how we design and develop solutions to improve financial health. The Korean participants were able to dive into the world of behavioral economics through:

  • Meetings with ideas42 in New York and Common Cents Lab in San Francisco, two organizations who are putting many behavioral economic theories into practice.
  • Learning about approaches and tools developed and implemented by ideas42 and Common Cents Lab that are applicable to a variety of contexts and markets. The participants found these approaches and tools, such as using slight nudges to change consumer saving behavior, especially relevant for the Korean market .

The value of exchanges across countries allow for organizations to learn from each other, build upon the experiences from other markets, and test new innovations. CFSI and MetLife Foundation plan to continue engaging with the participants as they look to reflect upon and test what they learned during the trip. CFSI plans to continue facilitating cross country exchanges and push to share financial health learnings across geographies and contexts.


Brenton Peck is a Senior Manager, Business Development at CFSI. Leveraging his previous roles at CFSI as a Consultant and Relationship Manager, Brenton helps organizations structure and execute projects that are designed to improve the financial health of their business and customers. He has held positions at the Filene Research Institute, J.P.Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.