Revolutionizing Financial Inclusion — with Chat

Launching a non-app that says education is key, in an app-crazy market that says money is key

Read this article about Mr. Finance featured in Forbes Asia!

When we hear the term “smart phone revolution”, (and we hear it all the time in Myanmar), we automatically think apps.

When we hear the term “financial inclusion”, (and we hear it all the time in Myanmar), you automatically microfinance, specifically micro-credit.

But on 6 June 2017, at Phandeeyar, the Myanmar tech and social impact hub, Opportunities NOW launched a digital platform that we think could revolutionize financial inclusion efforts, while claiming that apps, for the most part, are a waste of time.

Meet Mr. Finance. He is the first interactive financial education app purpose-built for Myanmar. He tells stories, and he gives timely financial advice. Myanmar’s mobile phone revolution has been mostly an app-less revolution. But Mr. Finance lives in chat, and chat is alive and well in Myanmar.

Mr. Finance interacts as a Facebook Messenger Chatbot that both teaches and learns. Users don’t want to use bandwidth to download, and don’t want to use precious local memory on large and bulky apps.

Try talking to him today!

Mr. Finance can:
● suggest simple messaging content based on user interaction.
● tell stories that are emotionally engaging.
● provide financial messaging to users when they are most in need of a push to help them make a smart financial decision.

The expertise to build Mr. Finance came out of ONOW’s five years of supporting Myanmar’s Base of the Pyramid Entrepreneurs. We have directly trained, helped finance, and mentored 200 new businesses. We’ve trained nearly 500 in entrepreneurship and business coaching, building critical thinking and problem solving skills along the way through interactive, experiential, real world-based training.

We’re actually working with our end user.

This has shaped the entire product from beginning to end, as it has been tested and tested and tested again.

Expert Panel and Industry Myopia

We have a history of doing things differently than the norm. When we thought about a launch party, we decided to be boring. We wanted a panel of experts form tech, microfinance and education to discuss an important issue that we feel has been overlooked.

Financial Literacy is just a nice to have.
— CEO of major Myanmar MFI

We decided to shine a light on this. We wanted to discuss financial literacy, and the failure of the Myanmar financial inclusion industry to effectively develop solutions for an exploding microfinance clientele.

So often, the microfinance industry asks “what is the cost of financial education, and do the benefits justify the expense?” One of our panelists reframed the question:

Effective Learning

So often, financial literacy in microfinance is a lecture-style delivery of the terms of a loan, as if knowing the interest rate and payment frequency is the essential information to qualify. Mr. Finance goes much further.

Financial Education needs to be emotionally engaging, simple, clear and concise, immediately applicable, and timely. The Mr. Finance chatbot achieves these key requirements for effective financial messaging.

The Mr. Finance platform features:

A gamified novel. Help a woman along her business journey, where business and financial management concepts are taught along the way. The main character is relatable and someone to be aspired to, allowing people to connect to her in a dramatic and effective way.

Business troubleshooting. Simple advice and practical steps to improve your financial situation.

Timely reminders. Broadcasts that are short and actionable, and especially memorable when delivered at just the right time, like at the end of the day when a user is most likely to forget to save money. These timely triggers actually help change behavior!

Mr. Finance in the future

We unearthed some really cool info (check out the Tweet below!!!) that the State Counselor may have even checked out Mr. Finance!

It’s been a great experience building this platform, and special thanks to USAID Burma for supporting an unproven concept, and giving us a chance to experiment with what works! What is beautiful about this project, when compared with so many social sector projects that attempt to build apps, is that the bot platform is so flexible — we can continue to build and adjust this platform as we learn more and more about the end user. Mr. Finance is alive, and strong, and will live on!