CPU Postal Financial Services Symposium, Saint Lucia, July 2018

Speech by the UPU Deputy Director General, Pascal Clivaz, at the CPU Postal Financial Services Symposium, Castries, Saint Lucia, 10 July 2018.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chastenet,

Minister of Finance Raymond,

Secretary General Smith,

Ambassador Soberon,

Representatives and colleagues of La Poste France,

Ministers of postal affairs, and officials of the government of St Lucia,

Delegates from member countries,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here on the beautiful island of St. Lucia. My warm thanks for inviting me to speak on the subject of Postal Financial Services.

Financial inclusion is a business imperative not only for the Universal Postal Union, but also for postal operators in the Caribbean. The reasons are clear.

Although 69 per cent of the world’s adult populations have access to financial services, only 51 per cent of those individuals in the Caribbean region have the same access.

There are also significant disparities among countries in the region, among gender and in the countryside when compared to urban areas.

I do not believe there is anyone in this room, who does not share the view that, for the good of Caribbean economies, for the good of the region’s people, this needs to change, and to change rapidly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Posts play an invaluable role in providing financial services founded on their extensive networks, the depth of public trust exhibited towards posts and the dynamism of the universal service obligation. 

Let me provide just a few figures to reinforce this message:

  • 91 per cent of posts globally offer at least 1 type of financial service,
  • 1.5 billion people access financial services through a post, primarily in areas of low income,
  • Postal operators have tremendous reach with one of the largest physical networks with 660,000 post offices

Postal operators are also involved in confronting the many challenges related to financial inclusion such as accessibility, eligibility and affordability.

And let me mention another reason for posts to deliver on the promise of financial services. As the traditional postal model founded on letter-post declines, there is an increasing need for diversification.

We need a new business model: One that is sustainable, profitable and capable of unleashing the tremendous potential of ecommerce and digitalization.

To do this, posts must be encouraged to embrace technology and to be competitive by adopting innovative and creative new ways of delivering financial services.

New revenue streams are the essence of this strategy and essential for the continued success of postal operators.   

UPU has been at the leading edge of this wave and has advocated strongly for posts to seize the numerous opportunities this area offers.

Our financial inclusion programme has provided research and information, while UPU’s Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility—FITAF— supports the digitization of postal financial services through a call for projects, some of them from this region. 

Launched in 2017, and supported by the Gates Foundation and VISA, FITAF will support 20 designated operators globally by 2020 to offer digital finance services to the unbanked and underserved.

Financial inclusion in rural areas is also a priority.

With more than 85 per cent of citizens excluded from banking services in some countries, and banks’ lacking interest in rural and low-income populations, posts can increase their revenue by developing modern financial services.

UPU is assisting member countries with a view to enhancing the delivery of electronic postal payment services and building a worldwide electronic postal payment network.

To do this, we have developed a tool allowing postal operators to efficiently handle postal payment services. It is known as the International Financial System product family, or IFS.

Seventy-Seven postal operators participate in the network and are connected through a highly secure system with extensive communication functions.

UPU also seeks to establish projects based on technical assistance to modernize the services provided and to propose new offers in the financial services market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent years, posts have unfairly been viewed as a thing of the past, not as a vehicle for the future.

At UPU, our work is dedicated to showing the importance of posts for a country’s economy, and how they support greater inclusion and promote technological and digital advancement.

For too long, posts have agonized too much over the negatives without seizing on the numerous positives. Posts have the networks, logistics and ties with government to ensure they succeed in this work.

As the deputy head of UPU, I see extraordinary opportunities for posts in the future, so long as we are effective and efficient, we are diversified, and we form strong partnerships across the world.

Thank you.