Digital Finance Institute in American Banker

The Digital Finance Institute was featured in American Banker Magazine in connection with its Conference, and its Banking on Refugees Project.

The Banking on Refugees Project looks at ways to address financial inclusion for refugees who are affected by wars and conflicts.

An extract of the article is as follows:

The Digital Finance Institute is researching payment technologies, such as digital currencies, that could be of immediate assistance to individuals whose lives have been shattered by disaster.

“Overnight, you go from being banked to going unbanked,” said Christine Duhaime, the Institute’s co-founder and executive director. “You’re leaving everything behind, including a bank account.

“The problem keeps getting larger.”

Statelessness, which happens to individuals fleeing to foreign countries because they cannot go back home due to war or persecution, contributes to financial exclusion because people can’t get jobs, bank accounts or housing without an ID, said Duhaime. So the Digital Finance Institute wants to explore technologies like biometrics that could potentially help identify and enroll people and digital value storage and transfer systems such as Bitcoin that could assist in, say, areas where banks and ATMs have been blown up if they existed in the first place.

Duhaime said she believes understanding the financial inclusion needs of refugees has been “woefully underrepresented in studies and reports on financial inclusion, and underserved in terms of global solutions.”

So the Digital Finance Institute plans to recruit experts from the financial services community to identify the problem and brainstorm technology solutions for refugees that will vary by region and the infrastructure available there.

“You have to imagine places where there is no Internet,” said Duhaime, a lawyer based in Canada with a specialized practice in counter-terrorism-financing and anti-money-laundering law.

In early June, the Digital Finance Institute is hosting an event in Vancouver that will explore, among other things, ways to help refugees. Sam Maule, the Digital Finance Institute’s chief inspiration officer, will present on the banking refuges program at the event. He envisions the Digital Finance Institute becoming a hub for tackling the money movement issues that inevitably follow international crises.

“Thinking ahead is so important,” said Maule, whose day job is emerging payments practice lead for Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group.

A planned white paper is the Digital Finance Institute’s first step. Longer term, the group seeks to establish a rapid response task force to respond to emergency situations that might do things like distribute funds to people, including aid workers. The Digital Finance Institute is also exploring the idea of bringing an innovation lab into a refugee camp to help develop longer-term solutions to people who need to rebuild their lives.

“You never know, the next Google might come out of a refugee camp,” said Duhaime.