Front Matter Page


Statistics Department

Measuring Financial Access

10 Years of the IMF Financial Access Survey

Prepared by an IMF team led by Marco Espinosa-Vega and Kazuko Shirono, with Hector Carcel Villanova, Esha Chhabra, Bidisha Das, and Yingjie Fan

No. 20/08

Special Note

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted people’s lives worldwide and is likely to have a disproportionate negative impact on the unbanked and underbanked populations, stressing the need to monitor financial access. The IMF’s Financial Access Survey (FAS) collects granular data on access to and use of financial services, including microfinance, SME lending, gender-disaggregated data, and digital finance such as mobile money and internet banking.

This departmental paper, marking the 10th anniversary of the FAS, provides a comprehensive guide to the FAS database, recent trends as well as some reflections on future directions. The FAS can help inform a policy response through relevant data on financial access, including mobile money.


This document was prepared before COVID-19 became a global pandemic and resulted in unprecedented economic strains. It, therefore, does not reflect the implications of these developments and related policy priorities. We direct you to the IMF Covid-19 page that includes staff recommendations with regard to the COVID-19 global outbreak.

Front Matter Page

Statistics Department

Measuring Financial Access— 10 Years of the IMF Financial Access Survey

Prepared by an IMF team led by Marco Espinosa-Vega and Kazuko Shirono, with Hector Carcel Villanova, Esha Chhabra, Bidisha Das, and Yingjie Fan


Front Matter Page

Copyright ©2020 International Monetary Fund

Cataloging-in-Publication Data IMF Library

Names: Espinosa-Vega, Marco. | Shirono, Kazuko. | Carcel, Hector. | Chhabra, Esha. | Das, Bidisha. | Fan, Yingjie. | International Monetary Fund. Statistics Department, issuing body. | International Monetary Fund, publisher.

Title: Measuring financial access : 10 years of the IMF Financial Access Survey / Prepared by an IMF staff team led by Marco Espinosa-Vega and Kazuko Shirono, with Hector Carcel Villanova, Esha Chhabra, Bidisha Das, and Yingjie Fan.

Other titles: Ten years of the IMF Financial Access Survey. | International Monetary Fund. Statistics Department (Series).

Description: Washington, DC : International Monetary Fund, [2020]. | Departmental paper series. | Includes bibliographical references.

Identifiers: ISBN 9781513538853 (paper)

Subjects: LCSH: International Monetary Fund. | Financial institutions—Databases. | Banks and banking—Databases.

Classification: LCC HG3881.5.I58 E87 2020

The Departmental Paper Series presents research by IMF staff on issues of broad regional or cross-country interest. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

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  • Acknowledgments

  • Executive Summary

  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Financial Inclusion and Its Measurement

    • Financial Inclusion: What It Entails and Why It Matters

    • Measures of Financial Inclusion

    • Sources of Financial Inclusion Data: Supply-Side vs. Demand-Side

    • Financial Access Databases

  • 3. Financial Access Survey (FAS): An Overview

    • Supply-Side Data Source with Global Coverage

    • FAS Indicators

    • FAS Coverage and Reporting

    • The FAS in the Global Context

  • 4. Recent Financial Access Trends

    • Global Trend: Changing Modes of Access to Finance

      • High-Income Countries Are Leading the Shift Toward Mobile and Internet Banking

      • Low- and Middle-Income Economies Adopting Agent Banking to Deepen Access

      • Mobile Money: A Viable Alternative to Traditional FSPs In Low- And Middle-Income Countries

  • 5. Financial Access for Women and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

    • Women’s Financial Inclusion

    • Microfinance Institutions Satisfy Unmet Demand for Financial Services for Women

    • Financial Inclusion of SMEs

  • 6. Conclusion

    • Looking Forward: Next Decade of the FAS

  • Appendix I. FAS Indicators

  • References

  • Boxes

    • Box 1. New Modes of Accessing Financial Services—Definitions

    • Box 2. Growing Importance of Mobile Money in Fragile States

    • Box 3. Economic Growth and SME Financial Access

  • Figures

    • Figure 1. Different Dimensions of Financial Inclusion

    • Figure 2. Select Data Sources on Financial Access

    • Figure 3. Evolution of the FAS, 2009–19

    • Figure 4. FAS Indicator Reporters, 2019

    • Figure 5. Steady Increase in the Number of Mobile Money Reporters, 2007–18

    • Figure 6. FAS Indicators to Monitor Sustainable Development Goals Target 8.10

    • Figure 7. G20-Endorsed Financial Inclusion Indicators from the FAS

    • Figure 8. Access to Traditional Banking Services Varies across Different Income Levels

    • Figure 9. Growing Usage of Credit Cards and Mobile and Internet Banking

    • Figure 10. Retail Agent Outlets Are Widespread in Asia and Latin America

    • Figure 11. Asia Has Seen a Remarkable Growth in Mobile Money

    • Figure 12. Mobile Money Agents Are More Prevalent in Countries with Lower Access to Traditional Banking Services

    • Figure 13. Positive Correlation between Mobile Money Access Points and an Enabling Regulatory Environment

    • Figure 14. Wide Variation in the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap

    • Figure 15. Microfinance Institutions Provide Financial Services for Women

    • Figure 16. Growth of SME Lending Varies Across Low- and Middle-Income Countries

  • Tables

    • Table 1. Number of Reporters for Selected FAS Series


This departmental paper received valuable guidance from Jose Roberto Rosales. The authors would like to thank Louis Marc Ducharme, Gabriel Quiros-Romero, Adolfo Barajas, and Niels-Jakob Hansen for their useful comments. Insightful comments were received from colleagues in the European Department, the Monetary and Capital Markets Department, and the Statistics Department of the IMF, as well as from the country authorities of Austria, China, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Spain, and the United States. The authors are grateful to Brian Bowling and Tonia Takyi for their administrative support, and to Houda Berrada, Albert William Nyikuli, and Natalie M. Ramirez-Djumena for guiding the editorial and promotion process. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or its Management.

Executive Summary

This departmental paper marks the 10th anniversary of the IMF Financial Access Survey (FAS). It offers a retrospective of the FAS database, along with some reflections as to its future directions.

Since its 2009 launch, the FAS has provided granular data on access to and use of financial services. It is a supply-side database with annual global coverage based on data sourced directly from financial service providers—aimed at supporting policymakers to target and evaluate financial inclusion policies. Its data collection has kept pace with financial innovation, such as the rise of mobile money and growing demand for gender-disaggregated data—and the FAS must continue to evolve.

FAS indicators suggest that financial access is advancing globally but at different speeds and that modes of access to finance are shifting beyond traditional bank branches. In high-income countries, the number of bank branches is declining while internet banking is gaining ground. Agent banking, based on retail agent outlets such as small retailers acting on behalf of banks to carry out financial transactions, has gained popularity in Asia and Latin America while mobile money has changed the way people access finance in Africa and other parts of the world.

This paper illustrates the value of FAS data granularity in better understanding financial access. It shows that deposit takers other than commercial banks (e.g., microfinance institutions or savings banks) play an important role in providing financial services in some economies although commercial banks are the main player in many economies. FAS data also suggest that in many economies, financial access and use gaps persist in some segments of the population, including women and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

These findings highlight a need to close the gaps in FAS data collection, carefully consider cross-country differences in financial intermediation structures, and keep pace with innovations, such as digital finance—to better track enablers of financial inclusion across the globe.

As different modalities of financial access gain traction, policymakers will face new challenges—such as consumer protection and financial stability considerations associated with these innovations.

Looking forward, goals for the FAS include continuing to encourage countries to strengthen FAS data reporting and to enhance its fintech data collection.

Measuring Financial Access: 10 Years of the IMF Financial Access Survey
Author: Marco A Espinosa-Vega, Ms. Kazuko Shirono, Mr. Hector Carcel Villanova, Miss Esha Chhabra, Ms. Bidisha Das, and Ms. Yingjie Fan