EMERGE Keynote: CFSI’s Tescher on Promoting Financial Health for All (June 5, 2014)
With the Center for Financial Services Innovation ringing in its 10th anniversary this year, CFSI President and CEO Jennifer Tescher took a short walk down memory lane—but kept a sharp focus on the road ahead—in her keynote address yesterday at EMERGE: The Forum on Consumer Financial Services Innovation.
Speaking to a packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, Tescher outlined the history of CFSI, which was originally formed, she said, to answer a simple question: How can technological innovation in financial services benefit those who need it most? That query led to a host of others and the nonprofit organization, which supports the development of profitable financial solutions that are good for consumers, isn’t done evolving yet. Last week, CFSI announced the launch of the Financial Solutions Lab, an initiative to identify, support and scale innovations aimed at helping consumers increase savings, improve credit and build assets. Supported by a five-year, $30 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase & Co., the lab will host a series of competitions that will support the most promising innovations with capital, technical assistance and third-party evaluation.
But beyond the new initiative, Tescher outlined a more fundamental shift in the way CFSI views its mission. “In focusing on improving the financial services experience for those who need it most, we’ve actually come up with a formula for how to improve the financial services experience for everyone,” she said. “It’s not just about bank accounts and it’s not just about the underserved. It’s about financial health and it’s about all of us.”
Citing the paradigm shift in health care over the past several years—from treating sickness to promoting wellness—Tescher said the analogy between physical health and financial well-being is an instructive model. “We all know that if we eat right, get exercise and get a good night’s sleep, we’re less likely to get sick,” she said. “Similarly, if we pay our bills on time, set aside even small amounts of money and don’t take on too much debt, we’ll be in much better position to handle life’s financial ups and downs . . . and that better positions us to invest in our futures.”
This view of financial services applies beyond just the underbanked to consumers at large—and a wide-ranging application of these principles will solidify the progress already made in delivering needed services, she continued. “If we want to consolidate the gains we’ve made and scale the innovations we’ve seeded, we need to think big … There is no better way to build a profitable franchise in financial services for the long run than to deliver products and services that will help customers achieve and maintain financial health.”
To measure that health, CFSI will take the country’s “financial pulse” this summer, with a major national survey conducted in partnership with American Express and the Ford Foundation, set to begin in weeks. “We’re going to take a snapshot of the state of financial health in this country, writ large,” said Tescher. “And that knowledge will serve us well as we enter our next 10 years.”
See related stories: