Gareth Ross at TED: Watering the financial desert

Every day, we see a new innovation that
amazes us and that gives us confidence in our ability to make our society
better. This age of amazement has not translated into an age of prosperity for
everyone. There are those that are being left behind. I think that is one of the
fundamental questions that we, as a society, need to grapple with. Imagine a
world where individuals do not have access to financial services that we all
take for granted… what happens is that there’s an incremental tax that is put
on communities that are already struggling… so an individual might have
to take a payday loan to meet a short-term financial obligation. Those
loans come with 400 percent interest rates and you can imagine that what that
sort of impact is on that person in that community, over time. Frayser is a city of
about 45,000 people. It was built along the railroad in the 1800s as factories
and schools and other institutions popped up to support a growing community it [Frayser]
thrived. Once we got to the 1980s the plants closed, the factories left, and
businesses stopped investing. Frayser is one place, but that place represents an
inequality that is fundamental and is growing our society. Financial deserts
are places that lack the traditional financial services that we’ve all come
to know and rely on. Places like Frayser, I think, absolutely should and can have a
very optimistic future. What we have to do, basically, is bring people together.
People helping each other out, people investing in each, other people opening
up new opportunities for others and coming up with new solutions. And that’s
connected to what MassMutual is trying to do as a company, because we have this
concept of mutuality and interdependence and so, the passion that I bring to this
particular question is one that resonates well in the company and
something that we as a collective are now trying to solve at a much
grander scale. The only question is are we up for the
challenge? As leaders of industries working to expand the limits of what’s
possible, it’s up to all of us to consider how to help the people being
left out and left behind in our country. Together, we can build stronger
communities with services and networks people can
count on. Because when we pool our efforts, we can ensure that the age of
amazement truly is amazing for everyone.

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