Its no secret that much of the innovation around mobile money and mobile financial services is coming from growth markets. Typically large sections of the population in these countries are un-banked and have limited access to any physical banking infrastructure yet feature phone and smartphone penetration is high. Taken together these circumstances have paved the way for mobile money services which are maturing to become essential banking tools that allow more sophisticated financial services to be brought to market.
In this guest blog, Sunil Sachdev, MD of financial technology company Fiserv discusses how this unique mobile ecosystem is taking shape. Sunil will also be speaking at the forthcoming Mobile Money Global conference in Istanbul.
For the vast majority of consumers in the developed world, having a banking relationship is part and parcel of daily life – consumers expect to see bank branches on street, interact with banks on digital channels and make payments securely using cards and mobile devices. This infrastructure is often difficult to implement in emerging economies, with challenging geography and economic concerns making it difficult for financial institutions operating on a traditional branch-led model to serve customers in an efficient and profitable fashion. In certain cases, this also extends to pockets of the population in developed economies as well.
Mobile has caused a payments revolution, bringing a variety of transactions to the palm of your hand. The growth of mobile has contributed to the 8 to 10 percent rise in non-cash payments annually and an even larger increase in the number of non-financial transactions. This all leads to greater engagement for the financial institutions that can deploy the technology effectively.
A great example is Cambodia’s ACLEDA Bank which started its mobile journey in 2010 by offering customers a compelling set of mobile banking, alerting and payment capabilities. They soon realised there was significant growth potential for mobile financial services among the many Cambodian consumers without bank accounts. The extension of services to these consumers via an app or USSD enabled them to become the leading financial services provider amongst textile workers, farmers in remote rural areas and anyone else in Cambodia.
“In many ways, developing nations have an edge on countries with complex financial systems. They are often able to ‘leapfrog’ technology due to the incredible penetration of mobile devices and a lack of legacy systems.”
Another success is that of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). ANZ launched an extensive mobile banking and payment service in several nations in the Pacific islands. The bank provides mobile financial services to unbanked and underbanked consumers in Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea allowing them to send money to family and friends, pay their bills, purchase airtime top-up vouchers and view their account balances and history on their mobile phones.
In many ways, developing nations have an edge on countries with complex financial systems. They are often able to ‘leapfrog’ technology due to the incredible penetration of mobile devices and a lack of legacy systems.
The ubiquity of mobile devices globally is changing the way people interact with businesses and each other, and that’s a game-changer for payments. In many countries, the number of mobile phones in use now surpasses the number of consumer bank accounts. Companies that provide services on these mobile devices have been quick to realize the potential of supporting a variety of payment transaction types for their existing customers. These include alternative payments providers like PayPal, and now Apple, with telecommunication providers like Vodafone also in the mix and the list continues to grow.
This is the future of banking, with emerging economies able to be at the centre of this revolution. However, what is needed to move mobile banking and payments forward in these nations is a significant change in culture. The challenge for most nations is reaching an agreement of interests between technology and telecom companies, banks and regulators on the true needs of customers. The development of payments systems can benefit everyone, not just those who are with a particular bank or mobile provider.
The opportunity to leverage the mobile channel to reach, engage and bank the underbanked and unbanked is clear. For the unbanked individual, the opportunity to move from a cash only economy and engage in the banking system, enabling them to save with interest and borrow at reasonable rates, creates value over and above just the money, making banking a force for social good. For the bank, it is a way to profitably serve a whole segment of customers who otherwise have traditionally not been able to be engaged, many of whom will in the future substantially improve their wealth and thereby become customers for increasing services and products.
From the years of implementation in both developed and developing economies, we believe in a few truths which can take a country’s mobile ambition forward: financial institutions are best placed to enable mobile financial services as they are regulated, have know-how and a solid customer base, regulatory ambiguity can prevent or delay investment and innovation in implementing a mobile payments network, growth is about building an effective mobile banking eco-system and not merely “some software, the bill payment and top-up use case is critical for new channel adoption Finally, and not to be underestimated is the need to spend time, money and effort to educate stakeholders and consumers – there are no winners without this.