The less money a person has the more time they must spend managing it. Well-designed financial services not only help people save when they can and borrow what they need, but also pay school fees, put food on the table, and deal with medical emergencies. Financial services can significantly improve the quality of one’s life, and technological innovation is bringing their benefits to more rural and low-income people around the world.
The work at Ulana Insights is to support the development and distribution of useful financial services to people across the developing world. This includes strategy and policy work with governments, donor organizations, financial institutions, technology companies and consulting firms.
However, Ulana Insights also recognizes that innovation sprouts from small companies with big ideas and is engaged in a significant amount of advisory work for fintech start-ups. As these digital finance systems have become relevant to adjacent sectors, the focus of the work has expanded to cover agricultural fintech, PAYG solar, digital humanitarian cash transfers, and adaptive learning platforms.
The majority of the work at Ulana Insights is advising clients on policy and strategic operations. The policy work is generally done with regulators who would like to create enabling ecosystems for innovation or national financial inclusion strategies. Work with technology companies, banks, and telecoms focuses on developing new value propositions and building the appropriate channels for their delivery.
Clients include donors and consulting firms commissioning technical publications to advance industry knowledge and build positions of thought leadership, as well as private sector firms needing market research and competitive analyses to inform their strategies. Ulana Insights manages both quantitative and qualitative research to provide either bespoke business intelligence or landmark publications.
The interactions of public sector policies and private sector strategies in converging industries advancing at the pace of technology means there is always a lot to learn. Trainings are generally for groups of 10-20 professionals and range from introductory sessions in digital finance, to more advanced topics in financial innovation, distribution in developing countries, digital product development, and start-up strategies.
Customized Solutions from
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One of the focal issues of the social innovation challenge is financial inclusion, and I contributed insights to their training curriculum on the major issues to be addressed and how social entrepreneurs can design solutions across the developing world. These include fintech solutions to financial education and ideas for products that can beat a bank account for low-income customers.Advisory Services
Mercy Corps wanted to better understand the opportunity for using Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) technologies to finance solar lighting systems for households in Ugandan refugee settlements. I also traveled to the West Nile region and conducted interviews, observations, and focus groups in Arua, Rhino Camp and Bidi Bidi Settlement.Advisory Services
The core message of the research is that most humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA) programs desire a payments system with greater geographic reach, higher-levels of customer service, and more advanced technology (like biometrics) than what is available, and partnerships with mobile money providers are needed to build more customized offerings.Advisory ServicesPublications
I prepared an hour long training session for Kiva interns on the future of financial inclusion, called Modern Microfinance, Mobile money and Fintech. The focus of the session was on how technology has lowered the cost of reaching customers through mobile money and agent banking systems, but has not yet led to very deep usage of digital finance systems.Training
The publication helps humanitarian practitioners understand the infrastructure needed for mobile money, the regulations which govern it, and the competitive advantages it has for delivering humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA). However, it also points out that mobile money systems are not used by the vulnerable populations CVA targets, and rarely extend to rural areas like refugee settlements.Publications
Finwego is putting the missing middle back in finance, by re-imagining the way salaried Indians can access credit. Finwego’s artificial intelligence-powered algorithm examines the relationship between employment-based data and credit discipline to create an alternative credit score for employees. In November 2018, Ulana Insights made a seed investment.Investment
Conducted a review of the status of humanitarian cash transfers for the GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation (M4H) team. We investigated the business case for mobile money providers, the challenges with digital finance solutions, and the circumstances under which mobile money is the best payments solution.Advisory Services
As PAYG solar companies push into the rural frontiers of African countries they quickly expand beyond the mobile money infrastructure upon which their models rely. Working with the BFA FIBR project, we helped PEG Ghana develop a solution for rural payments.Advisory Services