John Owens

John Owens

Senior Policy Advisor on Digital Financial Services & Financial Inclusion Policies

Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand
Public Policy

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John Owens's Overview


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John Owens' Summary

A lawyer, advisor, former board member and recognized expert in the field of digital financial services and access to finance with more than 25 years of field experience in Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked with both the private sector on implementation as well as with policymakers and central banks on regulations. He has strong leadership skills and has managed several high profile projects in multiple countries.

He has provided training and guidance to several banks, financial institutions, third-party providers and regulators globally. He has extensive hands-on experience and practical knowledge of digital financial services and financially inclusive products and services. He has published a number of articles on implementing digital financial services and is a frequent lecturer presenting at global conferences on financial inclusion.

He is currently the Senior Policy Advisor at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and was formerly on the international advisory panel of the Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) Forum, an editor of the Mobile Money for Development blog, and a director at Chemonics International.

John Owens' Experience

Senior Policy Advisor

Alliance for Financial Inclusion

Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Civic & Social Organization industry

May 2013Present (1 year 6 months) bangkok, thailand

-Generate high-level intellectual input in the area of digital financial services but also in other relevant areas of financial inclusion policies.
-Provide technical direction and input to AFI’s grants and the capacity building portfolio.
-Provide overall guidance for policy-related engagement strategies with specific countries or regions.
-Provide strategic guidance on digital financial services and policy initiatives of Working Groups, Grants and Capacity Building Efforts of AFI.
-Support and provide technical and content input in the production of member-led knowledge products and external knowledge management focused on digital financial services and other financial inclusion policy initiatives.
-Coordinate with the Communications Team to disseminate news and lessons from AFI members online and via various social media tools.
-Provide policy content, specific comments/inputs to various outputs and working documents on digital financial services and other financial inclusion policy initiatives arising from the work of AFI members and stakeholders.
-Support relevant AFI project team responsibilities, for example the internal knowledge sharing of policy learnings, support the organization of the Global Policy Forum, and participate in AFI task teams.
-Deliver and ensure quality of presentations based on the most recent digital financial services and other financial inclusion policy trends, on-going policy reforms and discussions.
-Participate in and present at relevant events sharing and disseminating insights and knowledge from the AFI network.
-Facilitate/act as an expert moderator in on-line discussions and face-to-face seminars focused on specific digital financial services and financial inclusion policies.
-Provides direct support to the Mobile Financial Services Working Group, the African Mobile Phone Financial Services Policy Initiative, and represent AFI on the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) subgroup on Markets and Payments Systems.

Privately Held; 1001-5000 employees; International Trade and Development industry

July 2012December 2013 (1 year 6 months) worldwide

Senior advisor on mobile payments, mobile money solutions, mobile banking and mobile technologies for development.

- Led efforts to support Chemonics International as the first international development consulting firm to join the Better Than Cash Alliance.
- Conducted mobile money, mobile banking assessments, new business development support and case studies in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

Speaking engagements included:

Panelist, Banking the Unbanked: Financial Inclusion through Mobile Money, 6th Mobile Commerce Summit Asia 2013, Singapore

Moderator, The Next Leap Forward: Towards True Interoperability, 6th Mobile Commerce Summit Asia 2013, Singapore

Moderator & Panelist, Achieving the ‘Double Bottom Line’ through Process Innovation, Women’s World Banking, Pacific Forum, Auckland, New Zealand

Speaker, Better Than Cash: How Governments, Donors, & the Private Sector Can Support Mobile Money & Mobile Banking, Mobile Money Expo, Lagos, Nigeria

Speaker, Better Than Cash: How Governments, Donors, & the Private Sector Can Support Mobile Money & Mobile Banking, 2nd Indian Ocean / South Asia Mobile Payments & Banking Summit 2013, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Workshop Presenter, Mobile Money for Development, Tips & Practices from the Field, Connected World Forum 2012 Mobile Money Academy, Dubai, UAE

Panelist, Mobile Money for Development: Experiences from Kenya, the Philippines & Afghanistan, Connected World Forum 2012, Dubai, UAE

Chairman, 6th Mobile Financial Services Asia Pacific Summit 2012 – Manila, Philippines

Panelist, Mobile Money: Implications for Remittances, Secretary of State’s 2nd Global Diaspora Forum, Washington DC, U.S.A.

Presenter, The Opportunities of Mobile Money & Digital Financial Services, American Chamber of Commerce, Manila, Philippines

Webinar, Moving from Mobile Money to Digital Financial Services to Promote Greater Financial Inclusion, Global Webinar

Voice of America Radio, Where the Mobile Bank Account was Born

Advisory Board

Mobile Money Transfer

January 2009December 2013 (5 years)

Microfinance advisor on the Clarion Events MMT Advisory Board.

Providing inputs and shaping conference agendas to focus on sharing experiences on mobile money deployments, better informing regulators, highlighting mobile money use cases to expand access to banking services, and introducing mobile payments to micro and small businesses.

Chief of Party Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS)

Chemonics International

Privately Held; 1001-5000 employees; International Trade and Development industry

July 1999June 2012 (13 years) philippines

Oversaw one of the longest and most successful USAID projects to support private sector-led access to banking services.

Helped guide and conceptualize training and technical assistance in financial product design, product development, performance monitoring, and analysis for more than 300 rural banks that provided more than 3 million loans valued at more than $1 billion to Microenterprises.

Worked on developing and improving financial services that focused on the base of the economic pyramid including microfinance lending, micro agri and micro housing loan services, deposit mobilization strategies, micro insurance services, money transfer services, and mobile money-enabled banking and mobile commerce solutions for clients and customers of rural banks.

See more on the video documentary Bank On It

Of Counsel

Owens, Owens, & Rinn

May 1987November 2011 (24 years 7 months)

Practicing Attorney at the firm from May 1987 until February 1988.

Acted as counsel to the firm from 1988 until November 2011.

Admitted to practice before the following Courts:

- The Supreme Court of Illinois in 1987

- The United States District Court in 1987

Currently a member of the Delta Theta Phi International Law Fraternity and the Chicago Bar Association.

Board Member - Board of Directors

Chemonics International

Privately Held; 1001-5000 employees; International Trade and Development industry

May 2009May 2011 (2 years 1 month)

Elected from among the top Chief of Party candidates to Chemonics International's Board of Directors for a two year post.

Microfinance Specialist


Government Agency; 5001-10,000 employees; International Affairs industry

April 1997May 1999 (2 years 2 months) la paz, bolivia

In Bolivia, he focused on the transformation of microfinance NGO’s into regulated financial institutions & supervised technical assistance provided to the Bolivian Superintendent of Bank and Non-Bank Financial Institutions.

Microenterprise Development Specialist


Government Agency; 5001-10,000 employees; International Affairs industry

June 1991March 1997 (5 years 10 months) kingston, jamaica

For USAID/Jamaica, he managed the Microenterprise Development Project that provided support to various MFIs & a postal savings bank.

Small Business Volunteer

Peace Corps Jamaica

Government Agency; 5001-10,000 employees; International Affairs industry

February 1988June 1991 (3 years 5 months)

Small Business Volunteer with the Small Business Association of Jamaica.

Led efforts to develop a nationwide network of small business market associations across the country comprising 17 craft associations and more than 2,700 vendors.

Helped plan, design and build the first privately run craft market in the country, Olde Craft Market from 1988-1991. Rebuilt the market after raising more than $250,000 from a public private sector partnership led by the vendors themselves, USAID, the Chamber of a Commerce and multiple banks and other business and community leaders.

Helped craft vendors form a national organization which led to representation on the Minister of Tourism's private sector advisory committee.

Awarded Peace Corps Volunteer of the Year 1990

John Owens' Certifications

  • Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar

    • September 1987

John Owens' Volunteer Experience & Causes

  • Volunteer Experience

    • Small Business Advisor

      Peace Corps
      • Economic Empowerment
      February 1988 May 1991 (3 years 4 months)
  • Volunteer Interests

    • Causes I care about:

      • Economic Empowerment
      • Poverty Alleviation

John Owens' Projects

  • Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion

    • November 2004 to June 2012

    Under the MABS program, John Owens conceptualized and guided efforts to work with more than 70 rural banks and more than 1,100 branches and other banking office to utilize mobile money platforms to provide mobile phone banking and mobile commerce services. John also worked with Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to help obtain approval for mobile money-enabled banking services and to develop appropriate operations and procedure manuals for rural banks. This effort led to a substantial increase in mobile money services that resulted in more than $400 million in mobile money-enabled banking transactions.

John Owens' Honors and Awards

  • Peace Corps Volunteer of the Year

    US Peace Corps
    • June 1990
  • Top 20 Twitter Influencers & #1 in SE Asia for Mobile Money, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments & Mobile Commerce industries

    • April 2012

    For more information, you can read the report at

  • Top 10 Twitter Accounts to Follow for Mobile Money & Financial Inclusion

    The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network
    • September 2014

    As financial inclusion becomes more central to the development agenda, who should you follow to better understand the challenges of the unbanked? We’ve curated a group of influential voices on Twitter to keep you updated on the evolving needs of the 2.5bn people who currently cannot access financial services. Below is the top 10 from that group.

John Owens' Languages

  • Spanish

    (Limited working proficiency)
  • English

    (Native or bilingual proficiency)

John Owens' Skills & Expertise

  1. International Project Management
  2. Microfinance
  3. Mobile Financial Services
  4. Banking
  5. Savings
  6. Credit
  7. Product Development
  8. Product Management
  9. Microcredit
  10. Market Research
  11. Mobile Payments
  12. Mobile Banking
  13. Financial Regulation
  14. SME Banking
  15. Project Management
  16. Financial Services
  17. Mobile Devices
  18. International Development
  19. Public Speaking
  20. Strategic Partnerships
  21. Strategy
  22. Finance
  23. Risk Management
  24. Management
  25. Economics
  26. Program Management
  27. Business Planning
  28. Management Consulting
  29. Public/private Partnerships
  30. Rural Development
  31. Africa
  32. Emerging Markets
  33. Latin America
  34. Leadership
  35. Economic Development
  36. Mobile Commerce
  37. Technical Assistance
  38. Capacity Building
  39. Social Entrepreneurship
  40. Private Sector Development
  41. International Relations
  42. Project Finance
  43. Governance
  44. NGOs
  45. Analysis
  46. Policy Analysis
  47. Policy
  48. Human Rights
  49. Corporate Social Responsibility
  50. Government

View All (50) Skills View Fewer Skills

John Owens' Publications

  • POS vs. Mobile Phone as a Channel for M-Banking

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 66
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens, Ben Davis

    Formalised payments using a variety of channels are a well-established activity in most countries and the move towards electronic payments is changing the face of retail financial services in developing countries. The predominance of one type of electronic payment will have a significant impact on the relative importance of mobile phone and POS as complementary channels in the branchless banking environment. Ultimately, models that combine and offer the ease of a mobile phone-based system while offering a POS card, that builds on the existing network of POS and ATM terminals, will most likely offer a significant advantage to a mobile phone- based or POS-based only solution.

  • Choosing a Mobile Phone Banking Format

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 67
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens, Ben Davis

    While the trend towards mobile phones supporting HTTPS is expected to be rapid, the medium-term outlook is that financial service providers will be required to use USSD, SMS and STK formats to provide access to lower income customers.
    The type of communication format used is to a certain extent determined by the providers’ status as a MNO, bank, third party service providers or joint venture between MNO-bank-MFI. MNOs have greater flexibility in terms of which format to use to service their customers, while banks and third party service providers typically default to USSD1/2/SMS/WIG STK solutions.
    Key determinants of which format to use will depend on what services the provider is looking to offer. Security of transactions should be traded off against who the target customers are, and what types of transactions they will make.

  • The Role of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances to Promote Mobile Phone Banking at the Bottom of the Pyramid

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 68
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens

    Small banks and networks of MFIs interested in offering mobile phone banking services will need to develop strategic alliances and partnerships with larger banks, MNOs and/or third-party mobile phone banking service providers. Smaller banks and MFIs will often benefit more from working together to share a mobile phone banking platform. This also creates certain economies of scale and a more promising business case for larger banks or MNOs that could host a mobile phone banking platform for the smaller banks or MFIs. Increasingly, MNOs offering mobile money platforms are also investing in or developing joint ventures with banks to more rapidly increase the range of services and uptake of mobile financial services. This can also create an opportunity for smaller banks and MFIs wishing to take advantage of mobile money platforms to facilitate access to bankingservices.
    Lastly, third-party mobile phone banking service providers will also continue to play a role for banks as well as small MFIs who would prefer to outsource certain banking functions and turn over much of the technical development and management of an agent network to a third party.

  • Incentivising 3rd Party Agents to Service Bank Customers

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 69
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens, Ben Davis

    The role of 3rd party agents is one of the most important issues for those undertaking branchless banking initiatives. The key is to develop a straightforward system that provides enough of a value proposition for the 3rd party agents while properly controling costs for the branchless banking operator.
    Critically, the importance of local conditions requires managers undertaking a branchless banking initiative to:
    Investigate international experiences; Adapt to local market conditions; Balance the timing and deployment of agents vs.
    potential clients; and Balance the amount and types of incentives in order to ensure that there are no “incentive incompatability” issues.

  • Pilot and Rollout Issues for Mobile Phone Banking Services

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 70
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens

    The experience to date is that traditional pilot testing and incremental entry for mobile phone banking services is difficult and quite unique from testing and rolling out other financial services and products due to the newness of the technology, new partner relationships, and regulatory challenges. Institutional issues include significant training for frontline and back office staff. New technologies also require changes in systems and procedures. Regulatory compliance issues must also be addressed and it is important to get the regulators on board early. Pilot testing mobile phone banking applications can also be challenging due to the potential for exponential uptake which may make controlled pilot tests more difficult so most institutions at least start with their staff and selected clients in the beginning. Testing partner relationships whether they are between banks, MFIs, MNOs, or third party service providers, or combinations of all four, are important. Smaller MFIs will most likely need to group together or work through networks in order to offer mobile phone banking solutions.

  • Creating a Tipping Point for Mobile Phone-based Financial Services

    • MicroSave Briefing Note # 71
    • February 2009
    Authors: John Owens

    In order to understand some of the key elements needed to educate clients about mobile financial services and to reach a critical mass of clients and customers using these services, it is important to understand a bit about what has made other similar campaigns effective. In his book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, Malcolm Gladwell describes three agents of change that create tipping points in the spread of various social epidemics. Under the “Law of the Few” he talks about the importance of building social epidemics by involving a rare set of people or partners with a special skill set. These include connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Connectors are the people who “link us up with the world...these are people with a special gift for bringing the world together”. Mavens are the information specialists or the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information”. They are the ones in each community who accumulate knowledge and know how to share it with others. Salesmen are the “persuaders” and have charismatic and powerful negotiation skills. They tend to be the ones that have a special trait to make others want to agree with them. The second major agent of change is referred to as the “Stickiness Factor” or the specific content of a message that makes it memorable and the third major agent of change is referred to as the “Power of Context.” This last factor points to the fact that human behaviour is sensitive to and strongly influenced by the environment and the surrounding circumstances at a particular time and place.

  • Offering Digital Financial Services to Promote Financial Inclusion: Lessons We've Learned

    • MIT Press Innovations Journal
    • September 10, 2013
    Authors: John Owens

    There continues to be significant interest in using new technologies to provide for greater financial inclusion. While much of the excitement has been focused on mobile financial services, we are seeing a shift to a broader focus on a range of technologies, players, and partnerships that are taking a more comprehensive view to providing access to financial services. This new approach is now being defined as digital financial services.

    From the role of governments, regulators, private sector players, and more importantly, the role and perspective of clients at the base of the economic pyramid, this new emphasis on digital financial services, has a much better chance of accomplishing deeper financial inclusion than we have seen in the past.

    In this paper, I share my viewpoints on this broader approach to improving financial inclusion and the lessons learned from a practitioner in the field point of view.

John Owens' Education

University of Notre Dame Law School

Juris Doctorate, Law


Activities and Societies: International Law Society

Gustavus Adolphus College

BA, Accounting, Philosopy


Activities and Societies: Delta Theta Phi, International Student Organization

Università degli Studi di Perugia

certificate course, Italian


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