Firstly, What is it like in Austin, Toronto, and Vienna? According to Greg Clark, global head of Future Cities & New Industries at HSBC Group; each one provides clues as to how cities can continue to deliver on their economic promises. He says: “Cities are the primary engine of social development; have helped people to flee poverty within the last 400 years.
In Austin, free land-use policies have opened the door to affordable housing in a fast-growing city. Meanwhile, in Vienna, a huge investment in public transportation has made travel around the city cheaper and easier. And in Toronto, thoughtful forms of public education have helped bring students from immigrant families; refugees from the fringes to the centre of the education system.
However, many cities do not offer these types of opportunities that involve their citizens. Estimated housing markets in some cities are attracting more investors than families. And in some cases, informal design rules reduce public spaces and prioritize public transportation. The result? Social and economic mobility has broken down, leaving some cities isolated rather than integrated. “I think your location is more important than what we are aware of when it comes to inclusion and your socioeconomic status,” said Miguel Gamiño, head of global cities at Mastercard.
DEALING WITH FINANCIAL EQUALITY
Mastercard created the Gamiño global capital of the city in 2018; giving him the task of building relationships to address the key issues facing urban areas and the people who live there. As part of this role, Gamiño has taken over the management of City Possible, a network of city leaders; academics, and corporate partners working on issues such as sustainable urban development and urban planning to protect the most vulnerable urban dwellers. Individual cities serve as a test case for how best to tackle these problems; with the hope that more effective efforts will provide a model for these strategies to be scaled up globally.
One of the key pillars of the City is likely to bring other financial services to neglected communities. These communities face a number of barriers to investment; ranging from a lack of access to standard banking services to a lack of access to a digital financial system. Although many cities support such things as housing and food; they often do not address the problems of financial equity and inclusion.
Los Angeles has recently taken a creative approach to invest with its Angeleno Connect program. Developed with Mastercard and MoCaFi, a financial technology firm focused on closing the racial wealth gap; Angeleno Connect offers a free bank card and mobile app to residents who do not have bank accounts. The card provided local government with a systematic approach to violence to provide financial support and gives users access to a number of city services; such as booking parks or applying for a business license.
THE POWER OF COOPERATION
Perhaps most importantly, Angeleno Connect gives users instant access to free banks. For non-bankers, the simple task of issuing a check can mean donating a portion of that money to a check payment service. With their Angeleno Connect card, users can deposit checks directly into their account using the program’s digital app and even install it in person, free of charge at sites like 7-Eleven and CVS.
It is not enough to give people easy access to deposits. So, further steps are needed on the journey towards investment; which includes education on sound financial decisions and how debt building can open doors for other financial opportunities. For example, climbing the social and economic ladder is easier when a bank borrows money to start a business or when a person’s financial knowledge helps him or she make wise decisions to save and spend money.
That is a journey that is best taken with strong partners. Gamiño notes that the Angeleno Connect program would not have been possible without the cooperation of the public and private companies behind the program. He says: “We all have various powers and drawbacks and different roles in culture.
So, Consider the recent relationship between Mastercard and city leaders in San Jose: The city’s “Waste Disposal Fund” program — which is part of its BeautifySJ program — has encouraged homeless people to clean up corporate waste as part of a larger effort to combat vandalism. To get their cleaning efforts, they were provided with reloaded cards from Mastercard. In this case, both Mastercard and city leaders had an important role to play. Gamiño says city workers could not afford to hand over the money to the people, and Mastercard relies on city trust and information to manage the system.
This type of collaboration plays an important role in the development of these new programs around the world. For example, the model that created the Angeleno Connect project is considered in many other cities in the U.S. and beyond.