MicroSave and the MetLife Foundation launched the “i3” program at an event in Hanoi on November 14, aimed at improving the financial health of low- to moderate-income communities around the country.

Standing for Innovate, Implement and Impact, the program will assist such communities by supporting financial services institutions that are focusing their digital transformation initiatives on this particular segment.

“While basic access to banking services and products remains a challenge in Vietnam, the government has shown a firm commitment through conducive policies that aim to advance financial inclusion,” Mr. Manoj Sharma, Managing Director, Asia, at MicroSave, said during his keynote address at the launch. “Through the i3 program, MicroSave aims to work with strong and capable financial services and fintech companies to design and deliver financial products and services that meet the needs of low- and moderate-income earners who aspire to lead financially healthy lives.”

More than 80 finance industry experts, including regulators, bankers, leaders of microfinance institutions, mobile financial service providers, and fintech entrepreneurs attended the launch. Special guests included Mr. Pham Xuan Hoe, Deputy Director General of the Banking Strategy Institute at the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), Mr. Ha Hai An, Deputy Director General of the Department of International Cooperation at the SBV, Mr. Bui Quang Vinh, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP), Mr. Nguyen Ba Diep, Executive Vice Chairman of MoMo (the M_Service JSC), and Mr. Gaurav Sharma, CEO and General Director of BIDV MetLife Life Insurance LLC.

A lively panel discussion on the importance of financial health was held, involving leaders from the SBV, BIDV MetLife Life Insurance, VBSP, MoMo, and The Asia Foundation, all of whom are committed to building financial health for all.

“The State Bank of Vietnam aims to leverage the accomplishments of Industry 4.0 with regard to digitizing activities in the banking sector and creating quick access to financial resources for individuals and businesses,” Mr. Hoe told the gathering. “Microfinance products provided on digital platforms are convenient for people living in remote areas, and so are a key instrument in realizing the national digital financial inclusion strategy currently being developed by the SBV.”

“Vietnam is undergoing a historic and exciting growth phase, making this the right time and perfect opportunity to ensure that growth is inclusive and equitable,” said Mr. Sharma. “The MetLife Foundation is well-aligned with the Vietnamese Government’s priority on improving the financial health of low- to moderate-income earners, and the i3 program is a great example of that. We hope to create a positive impact on the financial lives of 2 million people around Vietnam with this initiative.”

“VBSP is a government-owned bank taking the lead in policy and microfinance in Vietnam,” said Mr. Vinh. “We have the largest network coverage in the banking system, which ensures that the poor in rural, mountainous, remote, and isolated areas can easily access financial and banking services at 63 provincial branches, 630 district transaction offices, and 10,962 transaction units opened at communal people’s committee offices nationwide. With 183,000 savings units and over 6.7 million customers, together with more than 20 preferential credit programs and other services, total outstanding loans have reached VND185 trillion ($8 billion).”

“I greatly appreciated Microsave’s efforts in and focus on Vietnam and hope together we can change the lives of low-income earners,” said Mr. Diep. “MoMo would like to contribute to increasing financial inclusion in Vietnam through its mobile e-wallet and physical distribution system.”

In the i3 program, MicroSave has partnered with banks, microfinance providers, fintechs, and other financial service providers that are using technology to build products and services specifically for the financially excluded and underserved in Vietnam.

The three-year program, funded by the MetLife Foundation, is being implemented in four Asian countries, led by MicroSave in Bangladesh and Vietnam and by UNCDF in China and Malaysia. The program will have a shared learning platform to ensure that lessons learned are shared across markets.