Segments of the population in low- and middle-income countries, such as daily wage earners or small business owners in rural areas, typically have limited access to formal financial services. Contactless digital payment technology could expand financial access for underbanked populations by reducing the need for physical banks and in-person services, which would also limit risky person-to-person interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visual Know Your Customer (V-KYC) is a completely touchless, artificial intelligence-based digital banking technology that scans the video and audio of customers’ mobile calls and processes the data to provide instant and remote authorization and screening of potential customers. The V-KYC technology can potentially onboard and expand payments banking access to new merchants and end clients, increase transactions through eschewing the need for in person authentication, enable the uptake insurance services and money transfers. The research team aims to evaluate the impact of a novel V-KYC product on the expansion of and access to formal banking in India. In collaboration with FINO, one of the largest payment banks in India, the research team will develop and deploy the V-KYC technology and then conduct a randomized control trial in which subjects who call the FINO call center for onboarding are randomly assigned to either a V-KYC treatment arm or a control arm in which they will be onboarded through the traditional in-person electronic-KYC. They study the V-KYC’s impact on financial and business outcomes such as onboarding levels, volume and breadth of transactions, servicing of existing clients, and access to government subsidies and loan instruments. The team will also survey individuals and business owners to measure V-KYC’s effect on respondents’ ability to weather the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Credit: Sean Higgins