Houston, Texas, is now the 6th-most unbanked city in the US

Houston Financial City district is among the areas affected by the unbanked in Texas

The unbanked are growing in Houston rather than shrinking as mobile technologies don't seem to be easing the gap as the percentage of unbanked increases in the Texan city.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, around 11.9 per cent of Houston – or 264,000 homes – do not have access to a bank account, thus placing it as the sixth-most unbanked city in the United States.

Interestingly it's also the fifth-most underbanked city in the US with 28.4 per cent – or 630,000 homes – relying heavily on alternative financial methods for borrowing money that lie outside of their bank or bank account.

Why is this worrying?

Well, the statistic has actually increased over the years with only 10.5 per cent of the city being unbanked and 21.4 per cent underbanked in 2009.

This is even after Houston established the Bank on Houston programme to boost the numbers of those who have a bank account in the city.

So, what's caused this ballooning?

According to Houston's coordinator for the city controller's office and chair of the financial education committee for Bank On Houston, Alexander Obregon, "part of it is the population increase."

"There aren't enough service providers out there that can reach all the people who need a financial education.

"Houston's population continues to grow, and demand for its safety-net services continues to grow." Naturally, this means that population is increasing far faster than Houston's financial institutions can handle.

Houston's controller's office spokesman Roger Widmeyer also weighed in on why Houston is having trouble with growing numbers inside the unbanked bracket: "Houston is a mecca for skilled labour, and many of these folks get paid in cash, and they prefer it that way.

"We're attracting a lot of new residents who are coming here without a bank."

Widmeyer's solution?

"Have a larger investment in the community than mega corporation banks do."

The unbanked and underbanked is a problem around the world, one that is generally being tackled by mobile payment solution providers rather than banks themselves.

Do you think Houston's possible approach to localising banking approaches to suit the community will work?

Should they roll out easier ways for customers to help pay and bank without having to actually go into a bank?

Let us know by leaving your thoughts below.

 

To find out more about the latest payment technologies hitting the world, all that can help aid in reducing the number of unbanked across the globe, attend Cards & Payments Asia or Middle East. You can download the free brochure for either the Asian or Middle Eastern event today.

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