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Consumer Research

Bank Efforts to Serve Unbanked and Underbanked Consumers

Last Updated: July 24, 2023

This qualitative research study brought together the experiences of bankers, nonprofit executives, consumers, and consumer counselors to inform our understanding of banks’ efforts to develop sustainable relationships with unbanked, underbanked, and low- and moderate-income (LMI) consumers. Between April and December of 2015, researchers conducted interviews with executives from eleven banks and eight nonprofit or local government organizations, and facilitated eight focus groups with consumers and consumer counselors in five different cities.

Researchers asked bank executives about: the products and services provided and the strategies pursued to serve these consumers; how those products, services, and strategies are developed and implemented; and ways that banks can improve their ability to develop sustainable relationships with these consumers. In the interviews and focus groups, researchers solicited an understanding of the opinions, motivations, and attitudes of bank partners, consumers, and consumer counselors in order to better understand the effectiveness of bank efforts and how they might be improved.

Study Results

Major Recommendations for Banks from the Study

  • Recognize that trust is the foundation for strong relationships with unbanked and underbanked consumers
  • Adopt a multi-pronged approach to serving LMI consumers
  • Nurture longer-term relationships with community partners
  • Use technology to increase efficiencies for the bank, its partners, and its customers
  • Develop an understanding of unbanked and underbanked consumers in the bank’s market area


#GetBanked Initiative

Economic Inclusion Initiatives at the FDIC