Stellar is always looking for new ways to partner with people who share our vision of an open financial network for all. We’re pleased to announce our first visiting scholar, Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor of finance at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Professor Chowdhry is currently dedicating his sabbatical to working on Stellar in India.
As an academic, Chowdhry has what you might call a professorial interest in microfinance: he supervises graduate projects, develops models, and writes papers on the topic. Chowdhry also, however, works on the ground, running microfinance experiments geared towards broader financial inclusion. In 2009, he cofounded Financial Access at Birth (FAB), an organization that aims to provide newborn children with a $100 savings account. The account is linked to a unique ID that other organizations can use for cash transfers or dissemination of social services.
“I’ve been advocating financial inclusion for all people—particularly those who have no access to any formal financial services—for many years,” says Chowdhry. “Stellar’s mission and philosophy is close to my heart.”
While Stellar currently has projects in Nigeria and South Africa, Chowdhry’s work is our first foray into India. “The fact that Stellar is agnostic about currencies—US dollar, euros, Indian rupees, bitcoin—will allow us to tailor our applications to local needs and conditions,” he observes.
In a recent article, Chowdhry argues that digital currency is the best way to expand financial services to nearly 3 billion poor people—if we make digital currency more convenient, work well with regulators, and properly secure ourselves against fraud. His work on FAB points up the fact that “the most important element of financial inclusion is to be able to move money, nearly instantaneously and with negligible transactions costs. Stellar can deliver that. This network will have huge implications for the poor to be able to save effectively.”
Like the team here at Stellar, Chowdhry thinks a lot about how the poor suffer disproportionately from high transaction costs and remittance fees. Such costs are the result of a fragmented and antiquated financial system that is also disincentivized to build products for low-income customers. “Because Stellar provides a level playing field for large and small transactions, everyone will benefit from it—particularly the poor, who are often unable to save small amounts of money frequently without incurring high costs,” Chowdhry notes.
With Chowdhry’s support, we hope, as he writes, to help “do away with most transaction costs” and enable everyone to participate in the global economy.
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