Over the past 12 years, we have come a long way. Shortly after the above mentioned conference, Asli Demirguc-Kunt,
Sole Martinez and I started out with several data collection efforts. The better known of the two – branch and account penetration indicators – was later mainstreamed by the IMF in the form of the Financial Access Survey. While these indicators are relatively easy to collect by national supervisors and can be updated frequently, they are clearly crude proxy indicators. In the case of branch and ATM penetration, there
is too strong a focus on (i) traditional delivery channels, ignoring innovative channels, including agency or correspondent banking and digital finance, and (ii) on regulated entities. In the case of deposit and loan account per capita measures, these
indicators do not take into account that individuals might have several accounts across different banks. A second, somewhat less known data collection exercise focuses on barriers to access, using a bank-level survey that targeted the largest 5
banks across a sample of 80 countries and present indicators for three types of banking services - deposit, loan and payments - across three dimensions – physical access, affordability and eligibility. Barriers such as availability of locations to open
accounts and make loan applications, minimum account and loan balances, account fees, fees associated with payments, number of documents required to open a bank account, and processing times for loans vary significantly both across banks and countries. However, data
collection efforts on access barriers based on bank-level surveys face several severe constraints. First, unless channeled through regulatory entities, there is the risk of low response rates. Second, the comparability of such data might be limited given
different account types and fee structures across banks and countries. Nevertheless, such bank-level surveys have remained popular, as shown by the EBRD's Banking Environment and Performance Survey, although face-to-face interviews might be to only way to get good response rates.