UNSGSA -UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development

Wow! A Human-Centered Success Story

When development experts think about impact, they think about people like Susanti. A tea and honey seller in Cisarua in West Java, Indonesia, she has struggled to set aside enough money for her three children’s needs. The closest bank isn’t close at all, and she can’t afford its fees. So Susanti, like many low-income people, used to keep her earnings in a box at home. Saving enough money for her daughter’s education expenses was a big challenge.

For millions of people in Indonesia and around the world, mobile technology offers the opportunity to access affordable basic financial services at the touch of a button. But many of these innovative tools have not gained a lasting foothold--witness the dismal 69 percent dormancy rate for mobile money.

BTPN, an Indonesian bank, has worked to reverse this trend by designing a customer-centric digital savings account, managed by banking agents and aimed specifically at low-income customers like Susanti. Turning its back on the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to products, BTPN employed a human-centered design process that involved low-income customers and agents in every step of product development.

The result is BTPN Wow!, a no-fee savings account accessed by the simplest cell phone with only a single bar of signal. Nearby shopkeepers who serve as BTPN Wow! bank agents can open accounts, accept deposits, and withdraw cash for customers. And customers can use the account to save money, pay bills, and buy phone credits.

The cost, convenience, and simplicity of BTPN Wow! work perfectly for Susanti. She is now able to save regularly. She can pay her daughter’s school fees. And she has a new goal: to send another of her children to high school.

So how has BTPN Wow! worked out when it comes to the larger goals of financial inclusion? In its first two years, active usage is 38 percent, well ahead of the regional average of 19 percent. BTPN Wow! has gained 1.5 million low-income clients with equal numbers of women and men; around 70 percent live in rural areas. So we see human-centered design at work—making a difference in human lives.