Alternative Financial Services – “Shadow Banking” Panel Discussion

On September 18, a panel of financial services and policy experts met in Washington to discuss alternative financial services, particularly products and services focused on the estimated 100 million underbanked Americans.  A big topic of discussion was the use of prepaid debit cards.

The panel was sponsored by the New America Foundation, and a video of the event is shown below. While the video is quite long (over 2 hours), there are a number of interesting areas you may want to watch if you don’t have time to watch the whole video.

First, around hour 1:10 of the video, Patrick Brown, from the NetSpend Corporation (issuer of the excellent NetSpend prepaid Visa and NetSpend prepaid MasterCard) discusses how popular their savings account feature is and how consumers are using the feature. Mr Brown also gives an excellent example of how features like text messaging or email notifications can be used to keep track of exactly how much money you have in your prepaid account at any time. We think this is an excellent reason why prepaid cards can be better than account-linked debit cards (which require you to balance your account and track spending or face expensive overdraft fees).

Another excellent point in the video is at hour 2:25, when Edmund Mierzwinski, from the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) provides some memorable quotes, including: “Banks have left people without bank accounts. They don’t care … they just want to extract money from people.” Banks have left millions of people without “regular” bank accounts. Luckily, financial services innovators, like NetSpend, AccountNow, and others, have stepped in with excellent features.

Check out the video and learn more about this interesting and dynamic area of financial services.

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