We could not be more excited about the launch of our Mojaloop Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Center of Excellence (COE) this week. The COE, strategically located in Singapore, will help us extend our ecosystem to reach new regions and advance financial inclusion in more emerging markets. As part of this expansion, we’re thrilled to welcome Nick Drury to the Mojaloop Foundation team as the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs’s Director. Nick brings nearly 25 years of experience in the payments and financial inclusion space, and he will oversee operations and drive the growth of the CBDC COE. We sat down with Nick to learn a bit more about his background, what brought him to the Mojaloop Foundation and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role. Read on for more.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path. What have you been focused on in your work?

I’ve been in Asia for more than two decades and engaged in financial services for 25 years or so as a practitioner and as a researcher into the impact of emerging technologies on business and operating models. At the University of Cambridge, I have been focusing on creating a collaboration network across regions in research, development of digital tools and capacity-building and education in alternative finance. Data clearly shows that huge opportunities exist to increase access to finance and particularly universal financial inclusion where everyone, everywhere can access digital financial services.

Tell us briefly about the Mojaloop CBDC Center of Excellence. Why do you feel it’s an important initiative?

First, it will extend Mojaloop’s ecosystem and increase engagement and connectivity between regions. Regarding the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs, it will further accelerate financial inclusion in emerging markets and will examine how CBDCs are capable of delivering a wider portfolio of Mojaloop-enabled push payment capabilities available to central banks and their citizens, merchants and digital financial institutions. It’s a very exciting initiative and I would like to encourage all parties and interested organizations to engage in our various COE projects and to work together with us towards the goal of universal financial inclusion.

What excites you most about your role as director of the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs? What are you hoping to accomplish?

I am most excited about the opportunity to help drive collaboration towards greater financial inclusion in emerging markets. I will oversee operations and strategic growth of the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs and its initiatives, such as hackathons, workshops and pilot projects. I look forward to launching our CBDC working group that will focus on reducing costs and inefficiencies of payments platforms leveraging the Mojaloop open source software.

In your opinion, why is Singapore an important location for the CBDC COE?

Singapore is a global hub for payments innovation, a member country of ASEAN and also actively extending its ecosystem engagement with African countries. Singapore aims to align with efforts by the G20 to address existing frictions in global cross-border payments and has the potential to support the ASEAN goal of establishing regional payments integration by 2025. Many of the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs funding partners and ecosystem participants have a presence in Singapore

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest financial inclusion challenges right now?

The goal of universal financial inclusion is to remove all barriers to everyone, everywhere, irrespective of the supply-side or demand-side. Examples of such barriers include poor financial infrastructure, a lack of appropriate products and services that are convenient for consumers, high costs and high effort needed to open and operate accounts and satisfy documentation requirements. On the demand side, many consumers seeking access to financial services still lack basic (digital) financial literacy, lack financial resources and may also be negatively impacted by cultural and social conditions that impact their financial decisions. Mojaloop will work to engage with all players in the digital financial services space.

What keeps you motivated to continue working in this space? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

When you travel as widely as I do, the lack of financial inclusion is palpable, especially in the large and heterogeneous regions of Africa and Asia. There is so much latent talent everywhere, yet still a surprising lack of access to basic (digital) financial services and the opportunity to transact in anything other than cash. Many of the unbanked and underbanked in our regions are women and the poor in rural areas – often those who are excluded face discrimination, are marginalized from financial institutions and are unable to escape the poverty cycle. It is my sincere hope and desire to be a champion for, and give hope to, the unbanked and underbanked among us.

Learn more about the Mojaloop COE for CBDCs, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedInFacebook and Slack to stay up to date.