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Payments Inclusion

digital mobile phone security

While digital payments offer an increasing number of benefits to consumers and businesses, they can also exclude some from the financial system. The Atlanta Fed is working to ensure that all consumers and businesses have access to the nation's payment systems.

  • Payments Inclusion

    In a September 2020 paper, the Atlanta Fed looks at how the growth of digital payments benefits many businesses and consumers but can also shut out many households who are among the least economically mobile and resilient. This growth has led to an increasing number of businesses going cashless or adopting restrictive payment acceptance processes, practices that effectively exclude cash-based consumers, a population already marginally attached to the economy.

    Work to increase financial inclusion have generally focused on bringing people without bank accounts or with limited access to financial services into the traditional financial system. The Atlanta Fed paper points out that the share of consumers who lack credit or debit cards is actually larger than the share of those who are unbanked, so proposes that focusing efforts on ensuring equitable access to new, more convenient payments services—without discouraging innovation—can increase financial inclusion.

    What are the most important efforts we should pursue to ensure inclusion of this disconnected population? To identify those efforts and do the work, the Atlanta Fed has formed a special multidisciplinary committee made up of experts in the fields of payments and financial inclusion. View the charter of the Special Committee on Payments Inclusion.

    The Special Committee on Payments Inclusion

    The Committee, together with the Atlanta Fed, aims to play a pivotal role in supporting safe and inclusive payments innovation that advances economic mobility and resilience in the Sixth District and beyond. The Committee will work to advance ubiquitous access to safe, efficient, and inclusive payments for all.

    To accomplish its goals, the Committee will commission its members to conduct research on emerging issues in payments inclusion, collect and analyze data to better understand trends in the evolving payments industry, and make recommendations to the industry or policymakers based on research findings.

    The Committee will be active for two years. At the end of this term, Committee members and the Atlanta Fed will determine if there is additional work to pursue and may decide to extend the Committee's work.

    Committee Members

    • David Benck, senior vice president and general counsel, Hibbett Sports
    • Sudheer Chava, Alton M. Costley chair and professor of finance, Georgia Institute of Technology
    • Matt Cochran, Senior Director of External Communications, Global Payments
    • Andrea Donkor, vice president, regulatory relations, PayPal
    • Timothy Flacke, cofounder and executive director, Commonwealth
    • John Garratt, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Dollar General
    • Mark Pearce, director of the Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
    • Bruce Renard, executive director, The National ATM Council Inc.
    • Courtney Robinson, head of financial inclusion and public policy development, Square Inc.
    • Bob Skiba, executive vice president, InComm Payments
    • John M. Turner Jr., chief executive officer and president, Regions Bank
    • Silvanus J. Udoka, dean of the School of Business Administration, Clark Atlanta University
    • Brian K. Williams, president, First Farmers and Merchants Bank in Columbia, Tennessee

  • Our Role

    The Atlanta Fed plays several key roles in the payments industry, including operator, supervisor, and researcher. Our district is also a major hub for domestic payments—approximately 70 percent of U.S. payments flow through Atlanta, earning the metro area the nickname of "Transaction Alley."

    Roles the Atlanta Fed plays in payments include:

    • Operator. Federal Reserve Financial Services is an integrated organization within the Federal Reserve that is responsible for managing critical payment and securities services that foster the accessibility, integrity and efficiency of the US economy.
    • Supervisor. In addition to conducting exams of bank holding companies and domestic and international banks, we supervise technology service providers.
    • Convener and researcher. We are exploring payments systems design and risks in technological innovation and bringing people together to share, educate, and collaborate.

  • Outreach

    The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is committed to sharing knowledge and encourages an open dialogue through a variety of channels. Channels can include conferences, forums, webinars, and podcasts. We also write research papers and articles.

    Audiences that we frequently engage with are:

    • Fintechs and payments providers
    • Depository financial institutions
    • Third-party processors and technology service providers
    • Consumers
    • Trade groups
    • Regulators
    • Local and state government agencies
    • Universities

    Atlanta Fed events are typically open to these audiences. We will post event details here and on the Atlanta Fed News and Events page.

    Atlanta Fed cohosts webinars

    Financial inclusion is of central importance to countries across the globe, and fintechs offer great promise. On May 20, 2021, the Atlanta Fed's Americas Center and the Consulate of Brazil cohosted the Financial Inclusion and Open Banking webinar. Panelists explored how fintech and open banking are shaping financial services in the United States and Brazil and holding out the hope that innovative, technology-based financial institutions can offer financial services to the historically unbanked and underbanked. Watch the video.

    On May 18, 2022, the Atlanta Fed's Americas Center and the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce cohosted a webinar called "The Risks and Rewards of Real-Time Payments: The Brazilian Experience." Panelists explored lessons the United States can learn from the Brazil experience with implementing real-time payments. Watch the video.
  • Publications

    Digital Currency, Digital Payments, and the 'Last Mile' to the Unbanked
    Digital Currency, Digital Payments, and the 'Last Mile' to the Unbanked
    Using digital forms of payment requires funding from a source of money, such as cash or a bank account. Consequently, the unbanked population lacks access to digital payments—the so-called "last-mile" problem. This Policy Hub article examines some proposed solutions to this problem.
    Atlanta Fed Considers Ways to Expand Inclusion in Payments System
    Burgeoning technologies and societal changes have increased the importance of participation in the payments system. This Economy Matters article looks at ways the Atlanta Fed hopes to foster greater overall participation.
    photograph of a bitcoin coin laid on top of a one-hundred dollar bill overlaid by binary digits
    Digital Payments and the Path to Financial Inclusion
    Payments innovations offer convenience, but they can also exclude some people from our financial system. A new paper from the Atlanta Fed suggests that, to increase financial inclusion, a more effective approach than focusing on helping the underbanked become banked could be giving cash users access to digital payment vehicles that don’t depend on traditional bank accounts.
    As Fintech Transforms Payments, the Atlanta Fed Seeks to Guide Innovation
    Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta launched a multipronged strategic priority aimed at helping to balance innovation and safety in the payments industry. Explore our 2019 annual report, which looks at how fintech has changed the landscape of payments and how the Atlanta Fed seeks to help guide that innovation.
    Federico Mandelman, a Research Economist and Associate Adviser in the Research department of the Atlanta Fed, during the recording of a podcast episode
    "You Can Build the Infrastructure from Zero": A Conversation about Digital Adoption in Emerging Economies
    Much has been written about the digital revolution's impact on developed economies, but what about developing and emerging economies? The Economy Matters podcast features an Atlanta Fed economist who discusses his research into the question. podcast
    illustration of a dollar sign symbol overlaid with a circuit board from a computer
    Atlanta Fed Holds "Office Hours" Session
    The Atlanta Fed considers encouraging safe payments innovation to be one of its top strategic priorities. Read about a recent Atlanta Fed event where fintechs met with experts from the Atlanta Fed and the Board of Governors to discuss payments security, regulation, financial inclusion, and other matters.
    Delivering Benefits of Faster Payments to the Underserved
    Learn how faster payments could help cash-strapped consumers mitigate misalignments between the time that incoming funds are received and the time that payments need to occur.
    Comparing Means of Payment: What Role for a Central Bank Digital Currency?
    Discover the potential benefit that a central bank digital currency (CBDC) could provide in the context of existing payment mechanisms.
    Observations from the FooWire Project: Experimenting with DLT for Payments Use
    Find out how the Federal Reserve Board used distributed ledger technology (DLT) to build a payment system. This small-scale experiment called the "FooWire Project" highlighted the potential of DLT for certain payment uses.
    Token- or Account-Based? A Digital Currency Can Be Both
    Discover the common distinction made between "token-based" and "account-based" digital currencies and how this distinction is problematic because Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions.
  • Engage With Us

    If you are interested in discussing topics on payments inclusion, please complete the form and briefly describe your request.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    Dave Altig
    Executive Vice President and Research Director
    Research Division

    Fonda Bigbee
    Senior Credit and Risk Analyst
    Credit and Risk Management

    Nell Campbell-Drake
    Vice President
    Federal Reserve Financial Services

    Natalie Channer
    Supervision and Regulation

    Chris Colson
    Program Director
    Federal Reserve Financial Services

    Joe Davidson
    Senior Vice President
    Supervision and Regulation

    Leah Davenport
    Executive Vice President
    Corporate Engagement

    Ernie Evangelista
    Senior Knowledge Management Specialist
    Public Affairs

    Scarlett Heinbuch
    Payments Risk Expert
    Retail Payments Risk Forum

    Megan Houck
    Senior Business Analyst
    Regional Economic Information Network

    Rachel Riezman
    Manager, Project Management
    Cash Function Office

    Lali Shaffer
    Payments Risk Expert
    Retail Payments Risk Forum

    Oz Shy
    Senior Policy Adviser Economist
    Research Division

    Erien Terry
    Assistant Vice President
    Supervision and Regulation

    Brenda Thompson
    Senior IT Project Manager
    Business Technology and Security

    Larry Wall
    Research Center Executive Director
    Research Division

    Jessica Washington
    Assistant Vice President
    Retail Payments Risk Forum