Accion Venture Lab: Fintech startups are balancing digital and human interaction to accelerate financial inclusion

  • Digital technologies continue to drive massive change through the financial sector, helping startups increase access to, improve the quality of, or reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved.
  • Many consumers still desire some level of human interaction at different points of their customer journey, leaving fintech startups with the need to continually find the right balance between “tech” and “touch” for their customers.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all model for balancing tech and touch. Every product or service will need to adjust when to emphasize technology or human interaction and will need to take into account a variety of different contexts and local factors.


Washington, DC, October 15, 2018 — Accion Venture Lab, the seed-stage investment initiative of global nonprofit Accion, released a report today that explores how fintech startups are thoughtfully and deliberately incorporating human touch into the customer journey to better serve underbanked consumers. Developed with the support of Mastercard Foundation, Venture Lab’s latest report analyzes why both “tech” and “touch” matter for fintech startups, presents case studies of businesses that are successfully finding that balance, and offers a path forward for financial service providers looking to do the same.

Read the full report, “The Tech Touch Balance: How the best fintech startups integrate digital and human interaction to accelerate financial inclusion,” here.

“As financial services becomes increasingly digital, we have a chance to reach greater scale than ever before and help three billion people who today are underserved. Consumer preferences for ‘tech’ and touch’ are evolving quickly and dramatically, and this report illustrates how some of the best fintechs in the world are striking a balance for their customers,” said Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion.

Even where customers in emerging markets have overcome some of the barriers to using digital technologies — and have access to affordable handsets, reliable internet connectivity, and stable power — many still look for human interaction when using digital financial services. Reasons for this include limited comfort and familiarity with digital technologies, limited understanding of financial products, a lack of trust in financial service providers, and limited awareness of startup brands. This can leave fintech startups caught between using these highly efficient technologies and responding to client preferences for high-cost human interaction.

“Too often, fintechs build technology for technology’s sake, without considering the needs and preferences of their customers,” said Amee Parbhoo, Director of Investments at Accion Venture Lab and report co-author. “By determining how best to incorporate human touch at key points in the customer journey, startups can better acquire and retain customers, reduce expenses, increase profitability, and accelerate financial inclusion.”

As a seed-stage investor in fintech for the underserved, Venture Lab has worked with fintech startups around the world as they evaluate how to best leverage the use of digital technology while respecting customer preferences for human interaction. The report’s eight case studies offer timely examples of how successful businesses across a range of geographies — from India to Kenya to Mexico to Colombia — are confronting this challenge.

This report also provides insights into the future direction of “tech” and “touch” and guidance on where startups should begin in designing their own customer experience. By considering what the report calls the tech/touch spectrum — comprising tech enabling touch, tech imitating touch, and tech replacing touch — a startup may be able to better identify its most valuable customer segments and cater to their preferences, adjusting operations from one stage of the customer journey to the next.

To date, Venture Lab has invested in, and provided support to, more than 35 early-stage startups that operate in over 25 countries worldwide.



About Accion

Accion is a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. We catalyze financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of – or poorly served by – the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through its work with more than 90 partners in 40 countries. More at


Media Contact:
Katie Mounts
+1 202.280.5859

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