Trends in Mobile Money and Mobile Financial Services – Views from a veteran


The origins of Mahindra Comviva date back to 1999. Since then the company has enabled mobile operators and financial institutions around the world to address opportunities presented by money going digital. As part of Shift Thought’s assessment of the state of the market, it was a real pleasure to speak to Srinivas Nidugondi, to obtain his views on the latest trends and future directions. In this post I share highlights of our discussion on mobile money and mobile financial services.


Srinivas, thanks for your time today. Could you please give us a bit of background about your expertise and your role at Comviva?


imageI head the mobile financial solutions unit at Mahindra Comviva. For four years now, I head the entire commerce portfolio within Comviva. We have 3 verticals that include commerce, content and data, all with the underlying theme of mobility.

Within our horizontal of managed services, our fastest & largest pillar is commerce. I look at the overall opportunity, to grow our operations into a leadership position. I have a background in banking and payments, commerce and smartcards. My last position was at ICICI bank where I was Head of Internet Banking platform and Mobile Banking and worked on the launch of ICICI’s first mobile banking app 8 years ago; further I was involved in a collaborative offering with Vodafone to cater to the unbanked and under banked segments in India.


Could you please give us a brief background about Comviva?


imageWe’ve been around for 15 years, beginning with the Telecom Revolution in India and other emerging markets focussing on products that would help mobile operators, in our capacity as part of the Bharti group.

Our mobiquity® Money solution now has over 50 deployments in 40 countries, enabling over 35 million registered customers to transact approximately USD 13.5 billion transactions annually.

Over the last five years we have streamlined and also broad-based our focus. As a product company we complement Tech Mahindra’s IT services and also obtain access to new geographies, such as our recent forays into North America, Europe and Australia. Further, we have been able to penetrate into Latin America with several deployments on-going across the region.


Could you give us highlights of the kinds of products and services, and the kind of competition you face?


In our mobile financial services unit our philosophy is to leverage mobility, commerce & payment services. What this means is we do not just focus on providing payments solutions but are experts in the whole commerce process. Also we have refocused from mobile to mobility, to cover new devices that I expect will become an active part in the way people transact, for instance through wearables like Apple Watch or Google Glass.

We focus on payments behaviour within each segment that includes consumers, businesses and merchants. So we look at a diverse set of scenarios that range from under banked consumers to evolved consumers to large merchants. We are one of the largest providers for Mobile Money in the world, with services provided to pretty much every major mobile operator.

We are going up the value chain with services such as mobile wallets, mobile payments, and QR codes, BLE, HCE, NFC and Apple Pay and offering these solutions to banks, processors and retail industries apart from the traditional customer base of telecom operators. Our recent customers include banks in the North America and Asia pacific regions as well as a new age retail chain in South America. And further, we are working with a telecom operator in Europe for launching NFC based payments. Our competitors include for instance C-SAM, Toro, Airtag and Monetise.

On the business and merchant side we offer an integrated payment solution payPLUS that allows both large and medium merchants as well as SMEs to use their mobile phones as a POS, and we work with First Data and not just small & medium - there is a market for mobility based for insurance, e-commerce down to small and medium.

We are entering the US through one of the largest processors where competition is different. We don’t really see Square and iZettle as our competition as we don’t go direct to market but rather work with banks and processors. We also face localised competitions such as from Easytap in India.


What are some of the major implementations you’ve been involved in around the world?


We have over 50 mobile money implementations including a number of implementations with Airtel, Orange, Econet Wireless, Grameenphone, Banglalink, Tigo and others. In Bangladesh we are deploying with DBBL, one of the largest banks in the country.

We are working with First Data and other large processors and also with some of the largest banks for HCE, MasterPass. We are with the largest 4G operator in India for Mobile POS and Mobile Wallet. Some of our latest wins include a retailer in Chile, and US work with a processor for mobile POS, and a wallet for a bank in Canada.


In 2014, mobile money service became interoperable in 3 new markets. Could you tell us a bit about how this works and how effective this strategy has proved?


I don’t think every market could be a success. This is a function of multiple factors. In Kenya Safaricom became successful with a position of leader in the mobile business. Now Tanzania is becoming an overall leader in mobile money, but there no one operator has a monopolistic position.

Mobile money has taken off where there is low banking penetration and high mobile penetration. Agents must find it viable. Also the services need to go beyond just P2P or Cash-in/Cash-out. People must not just withdraw cash but make payments through their mobile money account. That is when profitability goes up.

It is also really important to be able to offer remittances. There is a service called Terra that is getting all the operators together for this to make the money flows easier in corridors such as Mozambique to Malawi, Zimbabwe to Malawi and South Africa to Zimbabwe.

If each operator has say a maximum of 40% market share, this means that 60% of the market is excluded, so interoperability is not a luxury but is critical for operators to explore in each market.


What are some of the other trends you observed in mobile money in 2014?


Mobile Money is used in a developmental context, where third party provides bring financial services to people who don’t have access to them.

I observed three key trends in mobile money over 2014.

Firstly, the evolution to cover more services has been recognised to be of huge importance. From cash-in/ cash-out, it is now about enabling every transaction that people have to make. So this is interoperability in the context of payments.

Secondly, there is a focus on interoperability in the context of remittances. We saw a spurt in transactions with Tigo and Airtel making their transactions interoperable in Tanzania.

Thirdly, it’s about how to build a path to offer a full suite of services, not just mobile money. We’ve had to solve for enabling payments, micro-loans, investments and insurance, so as to build a “One-Stop Shop” for all these services.


Did regulations have to change in order to enable these trends and new services added over 2014?


No I think the regulations did allow it, but it was a matter of the maturity level having grown over the last 3 years. As this grows further we’re seeing more such examples in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.


What is the outlook for mobile money going into 2015?


I see an evolution of the services to straddle multiple areas. From over-the-counter and one time transactions it’s now all about the mobile wallet. This needs a better understanding of the end-to-end customer journey and experience.


Srinivas, thanks very much for your time today. It has been a great pleasure speaking to you. I wish you the very best for your success in 2015 and beyond.



Srinivas Nidugondi is Senior Vice President at Mahindra Comviva, based in Bengaluru, India and has led the Mobile Financial Solutions area in Comviva since 2011.

Srinivas brings a keen interest in financial inclusion, especially as enabled by mobile phone and digital channels and has a wealth of experience in banking, payments, Internet and e-commerce. He set up & led the business for online banking and mobile payments in a large multinational bank and has led product management & business development in start-ups and IT product companies.


Charmaine Oak

Author of The Digital Money Game, co-author Virtual Currencies – From Secrecy to Safety

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Citi’s view on being a global digital bank


Today I am delighted to share highlights of my interview with Aditya Menon, Managing Director, Digital Strategy at Citi. Citi is one of the largest banks in the world and has long been at the forefront of innovation.

Aditya Menon explains why the bank, already known as the world’s leading digital bank is focusing now on simply being the best bank, backed by the power of technology. We learn of the journey over 2014 and how this is likely to further play out over 2015.




Aditya, I am excited at this opportunity to benefit from your deep knowledge on trends in global digital banking and especially delve deeper into developments in the US and India markets. Could we please start with a bit of background about your remit and the deep experience you have in payments?


As Managing Director, Global Digital Strategy at Citi I work on Citi’s global digital strategy for stakeholders in our consumer bank including card and Citi retail services in the US.

We do 3 things for our internal stakeholders. Firstly we assist them to formulate their digital strategy, particularly on payments, commerce, capability and technology. Secondly, an area in which I am most involved in is informing on the digital capability we need to grow and compete with banks and non-banks. Thirdly, we define and drive alignment around key strategic initiatives including key digital metrics and KPIs – both internally and against competitors.


Citi plays so many different roles around the world in Corporate Finance, Retail Banking, Investment Banking and more. How does your digital strategy support all these areas?


There are three key strategic imperatives for us to deliver on:

  • Firstly we must be Customer Centric and from a digital perspective this requires that we track metrics such as net promoter score, to recognise and reward the segments we want to serve with valuable personalized services.
  • Secondly this must be Globally Common. Globally, we serve approximately 200 million client accounts and operate in more than 100 countries. The challenge we address is to deliver globally common services across all these markets. For instance, taking the example of high net worth individuals, they do have certain globally common needs that we identify and help address.
  • Thirdly, it is about being Digitally Connected and creating digital partnerships. We see financial flows are digitising and we need to be in the middle of those flows, to drive greater access to our core products through digital channels and strategic partnerships.

For each of the three areas we have launched initiatives that help us to further enable our core business, go beyond the core and finally, drive innovation by creating disruption.


What led you to select this digital strategy for Citi?


At Citi we studied how digital disruptions eroded value across multiple industries including news, travel, video, music and advertising. Across these industries we found that over 10 years there could be a substantial market share shift. If we take year zero as being peak of physical manifestation of an industry, we saw a typical trend play out for each. An initial gradual decline was followed by an inflection point between year 2 to 4 and then a rapid transition from physical to digital.

In most of these industries the disruptor was not one of the incumbents. In most cases the total revenue of the entire industry declined over time due to disruption and commoditisation and revenues never really returned to the earlier peaks. This is interesting as it means that fewer players at end of year ten have to share a smaller pie and a number of incumbents make a loss.

Extrapolation to US retail banking made it clear to us what strategy we had to adopt.

We then extrapolated to see what this could mean for the US retail banking industry. We expect to see a substantial share shift over 10 years. Looking at payment and retail banking industries separately we expect retail banking to see even more disruption than payments in terms of value.

Our conclusion is that over 10 years the laggards could lose a major share of their revenues and profits, while leaders will gain moderately. So clearly it pays to be a leader, and as a laggard one could get into a vicious cycle which takes you down a point of no return.

We concluded that Citi must therefore rapidly enact a strategy that would help to best position our bank with respect to the digital disruption trends across the world.


What are some of the important ways this strategy was enabled by Citi in 2014?


Our strategy of globally common enablers has led to the launch of our award-winning retail banking mobile app that we deploy globally. In the area of corporate banking our Citi Velocity digital platform is the world leading FX trading app in terms of volume and value. We also have CitiDirect BE Mobile, which allows our corporate treasurers to use our payments infrastructure to complete payments anywhere.

With respect to driving disruptive innovation, we have brought out the Citi Wallet in partnership with MasterCard. We were also one of the first banks to launch with Apple Pay. The strategy played out in many ways across the world. For instance we launched a contextual offer and wallet platform in Hong Kong that went beyond the ordinary, to create contextual experience using location based services.


I am curious, considering Citi’s size and global footprint, how do you still manage to achieve high levels of innovation?


We place a lot of importance on innovation through a number of initiatives, of which one example is our Citi mobile challenge initiative.

Our US challenge in December was a great success and we just kicked off the same challenge in EMEA.

We have already got innovation labs set up around the world and the work there feeds into our business of crafting new services for the future. For instance our innovative work with our API opens up transformative potential through third party development.


Over 2014 what were some factors blocking the progress of money going digital?


This has continued to be a time when financial institutions must transform themselves in line with the demands of the economy and to support evolving consumer needs. This involves considerable rebalancing within the business.

Regulatory pressures and the need to balance AML requirements and security against innovation and superior consumer experience continues to make this process challenging.


From Shift Thought’s recent work in India we identify it as one of the most complex, yet promising markets for digital money. Please could you share your thoughts on this?


In the Indian market the regulator helped to create clear and transparent regulations for mobile banking, prepaid and agent banking. To my mind we have the clearest set of regulations that exist for digital payments and money anywhere in the world.

Although early services did not take off as the initial players in this space found it hard to sustain repeat usage as customers had no way to cash out But more recently, after giving banks and nonbanks a chance, what has lifted off well is the NPCI IMPS project. There has been steady growth in mobile-to-mobile payments.


What has worked well for India and what are some things the market may not have anticipated?


Perhaps one thing unique to implementation in the Indian market that was a unique requirement, but turned out to be a bit of a sticking point for adoption, is the centricity and early introduction of MMID. To my mind this could be the biggest barrier to adoption, a point I’ve raised in public forums recently.

Regarding unintended consequences, one interesting trend we’re observing is the use of the services for cash to bank account transfer. Consumers are starting to give cash to the banking agents who help to deposit this into their accounts. This use case is seeing a huge volume and value traction over NPCI rails.


What is the key development you expect in India over 2015?


Earlier in 2014, regulators asked for a new kind of institution to be created, that of a payment bank.

Alternate networks did not really work so this new type is expected to greatly help in getting subsidy programs and other important initiatives off the ground. This requires the creation of a massive number of bank accounts through a business model that works with lean 1% commissions to offer services to people who may be on or below the poverty line.

Half a dozen payment banks could be created in the near future and a number of telcos have applied for this. Under this new scheme payment banks will be permitted to operate savings and current accounts but will not be allowed to lend, thereby opening up the possibility of partnerships with scheduled commercial banks.


Aditya thanks so much for taking the time to so generously share with us your thoughts and findings. I have personally benefited so much from these discussions with you over the years and I take this opportunity to wish you every success in your plans in 2015 and beyond.


imageAditya Menon is Managing Director, Global Digital Strategy at Citi.

A pioneer in the field of payments and a true entrepreneur, Aditya has helped to shape mobile payments through his work at Obopay and Yes Bank Ltd. Aditya is hailed as a visionary leader who can inspire teams to deliver their best.




How payments changed in UK in 2014, and the perfect storm brewing for 2015


We in the United Kingdom already use so little cash that we could easily have gone the way of the Nordics, where consumers have such good payment systems that mobile payments took a back seat. Yet this year the UK pulled ahead in The Digital Money Game. At the player category level too we saw major upsets to the apple-carts of more than one category of providers, and a perfect storm is now in the brewing for others.

While the acceleration happened on several levels, in this blog I focus on how mobile payments took off this year and consumers now enjoy a raft of payment services on the go. It is fortunate that the Payments Council, Vocalink and Zapp had time to get a head start, as the likes of Apple Pay and Alipay prepare to descend on the UK in early 2015.

What do British consumers really need?

ukIn the UK with a population of 64 million, we have over 84 million mobile connections and more than 72% of these are smartphones. An increasing number of ‘phablets’ are rapidly coming into use.  We have 90.5% banked and a high penetration of internet services of over 84%.

We take internet banking for granted, and have enjoyed bank transfers in minutes for years now, thanks to Faster Payments. An estimated 5.7 million mobile banking transactions take place daily in the UK. We expect to pay everywhere with cards, with over 55 million credit cards and 95 million debit cards issued over the last year.

So do we really need mobile payments? We may feel overcharged by our banks, and while we may resent surcharges on card payments at some merchants in general domestically the use of cash is more of a lifestyle choice than a necessity. I can’t recall when I last used a cheque book. Yet survey results this month claim that enthusiasm for mobile payments has skyrocketed over the last 15 months, with 44% of those polled prepared to even switch accounts to access mobile payments.

London transport goes cashless

Absence of a real need may be one reason why the promise of NFC remained unfulfilled since 2005, but neither consumers nor merchants quite invited it in- until recently. I have been closely involved in projects involving mobile payments and NFC since the early days when Transport for London (TfL) was considered to be the major prize that everyone worked hard to win. Yet it took a decade before mobile payment services on the TfL network launched and even today while it is possible to pay using mobile phones, people are just beginning to use their contactless cards. While in theory mobile payments are available on EE and Vodafone, in practice some elements of the consumer experience remain to be ironed out.

Contactless payments – here at last!

imageIt was quite a novelty to see the new Barclaycard contactless payment gloves trialled for Christmas shopping at some stores this season. The Barclaycard gloves have an embedded contactless chip that is linked to a credit or debit card to pay for transactions of up to £20. Contactless payments are also supported by the Barclaycard PayTag on London buses, McDonalds, Pret, Starbucks and many other chain stores.

We’ve had contactless payments infrastructure building up for years now, accelerated by the 2012 Olympics, attracting major investments from Visa Europe and others. Today across the UK, an estimated 300,000 terminals accept contactless cards. There are over 48.3m contactless cards issued, with a quarter of all plastic new cards being contactless-enabled. Over 2014 UK consumers are expected to spend £2 billion through contactless payments,

What does it mean for the consumer in everyday life?

As a British consumer, paying for things has now become easier. Apart from the danger of card clash, for which we have been most soundly educated, we have to be savvy to protect ourselves from a constant stream of marketing offers. From the consumer perspective, the winners are those who use the new features to shop smarter, save money and stick to their budget.

We now need even less cash, and at stores there are many more self-service checkout points that there were in 2012. You won’t have to tote around a load of loyalty cards either – Tesco has already begun to trial their PayQwiq service at 32 stores. Triallists use the online grocery service and add card details for use through the app. In store they buy up to £400 a day, sign into the app with a four-digit PIN and pick the card they want to use. A QR Code appears on their phone which the till scans to take payment and credit them with Clubcard points.

Life has become easier in many ways. Just as you can easily hail a cab and pay for it through the Uber app, something that London black cabs have not been too pleased about, expect more “Uber-like” innovations wherever there are pain points to be found.

New ways to pay: Pingit, Pay-em or Zapp-em?

paymThis April the Payments Council launched an important service called Paym. This allows convenient transfer of money between participating UK bank account holders. Earlier, Barclays supported Pingit, since 2012 as a great new way to send money in minutes using a phone, but Paym is integrated into customers’ existing mobile banking or payment apps as an additional way to pay, making it possible to send and receive payments using just a mobile number.

Customers register their phone number and the account they want payments made into with their bank or building society and people can then pay directly into the account using just a mobile number – no sort codes or account numbers are needed.

How Paym works

To send a payment, you select the mobile number to pay from your list of contacts, along with an amount and a reference. Behind the scenes the sender’s bank accesses the Paym database to confirm that the recipient is registered with the service and to retrieve their bank or building society account details.

The app helps to confirm details and receive immediate confirmation. The real magic behind this is managed by the Faster Payments Service or by the LINK network, whether or not the recipient phone is on or within coverage. In most cases the payment reaches the recipient account almost immediately and they see it in recent transactions on their account.

How Zapp proposes to work

zappZapp, announced early in 2014 now claims partnerships with major merchants including Asda, Sainsbury, House of Frasers and more. People will be able to pay for goods and services using Zapp, authorising the transaction from their mobile banking app. The payment will be made directly from their bank account, with the use of tokens to offer better security.

What is most interesting really is the effect this will have in enabling payments to small businesses. Shaving off pennies on each transaction can bring welcome relief to a number of traders and servicemen who can expect to take payments using their mobile phones.

A perfect storm brewing

If you are a provider, this is no time to be complacent. Consumers are set to “select and forget” their means of payment and many will make their choice in 2015. Merchants too are selecting their partners just now.

With Paym, banks continue to compete through P2P services that bear their own brand and can be differentiated in some ways. Zapp, on the cards for (delayed) launch in early 2015 will further put the banks in the driving seat as far as payments go.

Weve, a joint initiative of mobile operators in the UK was to roll out Pouch but has already announced it would close the wallet this year. With the HCE initiative announced by the card schemes in February this year, mobile operators no longer dictate terms with regard to NFC services, and in the UK also have the larger consideration of M&A on their minds, with the proposed acquisition of EE by BT on the cards.

applepayWith Apple Pay, already in use in the US and preparing to enter the UK market, I think we may expect a mega-battle on the cards for 2015. Google Wallet, Amazon and others are already highly active in the market.

Besides, we have not even begun to discuss the wider digital money picture. This includes a host of innovation from newly funded players including not just Fintech startups but well-funded Alipay, richer by $25 billion with the largest IPO having come through this year, and WorldRemit and Transferwise, expanding rapidly in remittances.

UK then is the place to watch. Shift Thought continues to do in-depth research on this market. Our detailed interviews with leading UK providers will shortly be published. Do drop me a line at if you have further questions.

Photo Credits: Promotional material from Barclaycard, Apple Pay, Zapp and Paym

A refreshing innovation–The Sinar Sip from Bank Sinar, part of the largest banking group in Indonesia

Bank Sinar is a part of Bank Mandiri Group and as part of Indonesia’s move towards financial inclusion Bank Sinar worked with IFC and other partners to carry out a branchless banking pilot. Today we are joined from beautiful Bali by Pak Alit Asmara Jaya who shares his expert thoughts on banking the unbanked using mobile phones: where the challenges lie and what his hopes are for mobile banking in Indonesia in 2015 and beyond.


Pak Alit, thanks for your time today. We are greatly interested in understanding the branchless banking experience in Indonesia, and your experience in launching the branchless banking pilot. For context, could you please give us a bit of background about Bank Sinar?


Bank Sinar is currently majority owned by Bank Mandiri, a state owned enterprise. It has been in operation since 1970, having originated as a peoples’ credit bank. In 2004 we obtained a licence as a conventional bank and then in May 2008 the bank became a subsidiary of Bank Mandiri, the largest banking group in Indonesia. 

The bank focuses on financing micro and small businesses and entrepreneurs. As of August 2014, our portfolio consists of over 80% of micro and small loans, with the rest being loans to medium enterprises.

The bank only operates in Bali for now, with 86 branches and 7 cash outlets. In terms of size, we have nearly USD 110 million in total assets and USD 78 million in total loans.

Our vision is to become the main challenger in financing micro and small business in Bali. Our mission is threefold: Firstly to develop the product and services as per market and customer needs, secondly to grow and develop Bank Sinar in a healthy and sustained manner and thirdly to support the professional growth of our employees.


Please could you describe the needs of the market and why you embarked on a mobile money/branchless banking pilot?


Indonesia has a population of 250 million, being the fifth most populous country in the world. However at present only 60 million people have bank accounts. The rest must depend on informal financial services. In Bali, an estimated 49% of working adults do not have bank accounts. 

We embarked on the pilot with the following main purposes:

  • To renew our commitment to the micro segment and add to our customer base by tapping the unbanked  segment
  • To  differentiate our services in a highly competitive market
  • To serve our existing customers, as the additional services keep  them loyal to Bank Sinar 
  • Over the long term to increase our loan portfolio as savings accounts increase

As a bank, our core business is credit and the main goal of our Branchless Banking service is to provide basic savings and credit products.




Please describe the pilot itself. How many people were involved? What services were offered and how?




We started the project in March 2010 and launched in November 2012, but still without agents because the central bank was still in the process of formulating regulations for Branchless Banking.

At the beginning of June 2013, we started the pilot with agents based on the guidance from our Central Bank. We had 10 agents in 3 districts. Their core business is to run grocery stores and sell mobile phones and airtime top-up. The pilot ended in November 2013 as per guidance. Our project was in partnership with IFC and Axis was our Telco partner.

Our core team consisted of 10 people and was supported by other departments including branch, accounting, finance, operations, legal and compliance teams.

spanduk uplk


The services were of three major kinds:

  1. Saving accounts, including opening accounts at the agents, deposits, withdrawals, balance inquiry and P2P money transfer
  2. Payments, including payment of bills, mobile top up and merchant payment
  3. Other services included linking the account to conventional savings accounts




We used USSD technology with the phone number as the account number. A PIN is required for accessing stored funds and carrying out transactions. Once an account is opened at an agent, it is directly active but with limited transactions until full KYC and verification has been completed by Bank Sinar. Transactions are completed in less than 45 seconds. Completion of every transaction is notified by SMS.  

How did the pilot help, and what feedback did you receive?


We had a list of things to be tested and studied during our pilot. These included product positioning, speed of transaction, pricing/charging, fees paid to agents, agent incentives, customer education by agent, agent training and programs to register and activate customers.


8 Launching UPLK Sri Asih 28 Juni 2013


Of the lessons learnt from the pilot, some key ones include the following:

  • Consumers do have  a need to save after working hours and on holidays
  • The majority of customers who opened accounts at the agents were previously unbanked
  • We need more Telcos to join the service
  • Pricing was not an issue, in fact it was considered affordable
  • The majority of the transactions consisted of deposits
  • Agents who managed phone shops were able to more proactively sell products and they registered many more customers
  • There was a strong demand for more billers to join the service
  • Incentives for agents and customer worked well to increase transactions and accounts opened. 



What are some of the challenges you faced in making such a service successful?


Getting this service to be successful requires attention to a number of different aspects. Some of the areas we have been looking at include the following:

  • Telco coverage is still a challenge. Even the biggest Telco has some problems to cover the whole of Bali
  • A lot of consumer education is required to convince people that use of the service will benefit them. Cash is still very much king
  • We need to work with many more billers
  • We require the ecosystem to include many more merchants
  • It is hard to get agent commitment. Half of our registered agents were not able to make much progress in terms of registering accounts and encouraging transactions
  • So far regulation only allowed Banks with category book IV to have the service and the product is only for e-money, not saving as Bank Sinar requires to do
  • We would benefit from the involvement of the Central Bank and Government to help our campaign
  • The Government must support through their policy to distribute subsidiary payments through mobile money
  • Renewed long term commitment and budget from management

What are your hopes for 2015?

Our partnership with Bank Mandiri with the co-branding model using the e-money product of Mandiri will continue. We are in the process of preparing for it. The model will be the same with the name Sinar Sip but powered by Bank Mandiri. The service will be e-money phone-based service with the use of agents. Bank Mandiri has a licence to go for branchless banking based on e-money. So far this is allowed by regulation.

At present OJK (The new Financial Service Authority of Indonesia) is drafting branchless banking regulations based on basic savings account product and hopefully will release it this December. Bank Sinar looks forward to having our own branchless banking service. We can then reposition the Sinar Sip e-money into the Sinar Sip savings product. This would allow us to pursue our initial plan of outreach to the unbanked for increasing our savings customer base and micro loan portfolio.


I GN Alit Asmara Jaya is currently Managing Director of Bank Sinar, which is the micro-banking institution in Bali and a part of Bank Mandiri Group, the biggest banking group in Indonesia. Having worked in the industry for over 30 years, his wide experience includes operations, risk management, credit, export import, accounting and finance and branchless banking for the last 3 years. He is in charge of the Branchless Banking project of Bank Sinar.


Why don’t we let our youth manage bank accounts?

In my recent interview of Brian Richardson, co-founder of WIZZIT in South Africa, he asked a question: Why should a 16 year old be expected to look after a family, but not have access to a bank account?

I have been unable to forget that question – hence this post. I thought I should check with you – is it that we are underestimating both the capabilities and the needs of our youth, who must cope with the tremendous fallout of the world financial crisis (not of their making, I should add), and who are the architects of the world’s future.


Take what is happening in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. I was recently in some Asian countries to conduct research on the way people pay and was pretty amazed at what I saw. It is the youth who are leading trends in paying online. Who orders on Flipkart in India, to cover the needs of the whole family – for their grandparents and parents alike? Who buys pizzas from Domino Pizzas using their iPads? In fact, I found it was often the teenager in the household who was actually in charge of the families new payments card and trusted to buy on behalf of everyone. As they also manage the families Wi-Fi and are the most computer literate, little wonder this is the case.


This got me thinking. Was this just an emerging country phenomenon? Is it confined to urban areas? I’m concluding it is not. I see similar behaviour in households here in the UK. Across the world, and across income groups, there is a section of trusted young people who need access to financial services of all kinds, indeed it is fairly critical to consider their needs, not as exceptions but as well-designed, mainstream services.

Remember, a 50 year-old saw the Internet invented in their lifetime, as also mobile phones. Our kids on the other hand grow up taking these things for granted. As money goes digital, digital wallets and mobile phones offer new capabilities to design in checks and balances, while more effectively supporting what young people need.

So what would happen if we ignore this issue? Could we be driving the youth into the fast growing informal digital economy and could this create problems for the future? Unregulated digital financial services have little or no restrictions – surely using these would be worse, not better.


Business-savvy youngsters are not a new phenomenon, but the technology revolution of the past years has greatly empowered their ambitions. The recent BBC show Million Dollar Intern, which I much enjoyed, had Rich Martell, Gary Martin, Ross Bailey, Juliette Brindak, Suleman Sacranie and Fraser Doherty who run million dollar enterprises to go in and give some pointers to established, struggling businesses. Fraser Doherty started age 14 and made a million before the age of 20. Each of the others has a similarly inspiring story. Do we really feel that at age 16 these entrepreneurs were incapable of managing their own bank account?


You might argue that the million dollar interns are the exception and not the norm. Left to themselves youth may have less control over themselves than adults do. Or they may earn small amounts that are unprofitable for banks to support. Or they are not accountable for their actions. However many trends are creating valuable market segments: international students studying abroad, music and gaming users and more.


Today however, in the new branchless banking and mobile money scenarios there are ways to address each one of these concerns. Yet the new services invariably continue to have the same restrictions: You must be 18 and over to be entitled to use them.


In the absence of mainstream financial services a variety of prepaid cards are offered. However the cost and inconvenience (limits, difficulty of topping up), restrict their use as a way to manage business or household needs.

I believe this may be an idea whose time has come. Why don’t we investigate the great new features digital money services offer - Double sign off to protect youth from using illegal substances or falling for scams (though I may add, some adults may need to have a similar sign-off from a youngster as well!).


Similarly the retail industry needs to consider some changes. Secure certification systems and better universal and global standards for classification for products online can restrict purchase of certain products rather than remove capability to buy.


Just as there is a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, there is a goldmine of the architects of tomorrow, waiting to climb the banking ladder – or a non-banking ladder. Our decisions and actions will determine which it will be.

Why should a 16-year old be expected to support a family in Africa, but not open a bank account?


As part of Shift Thought research into the progress of branchless banking around the world, it was my privilege to speak to Brian Richardson, a pioneer of mobile-based branchless banking, who co-founded WIZZIT in South Africa back in 2004.


WIZZIT BANK 104Through our discussion, we uncover how Mr. Richardson and team opened new doors to banking services for the unbanked of the world.

In pursuit of his vision of making economic citizens of all, he embarked on a 10 year journey, innovating in the commercial use of USSD and building models similar to those being implemented around the world, in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil, with varying degrees of success.

We learn how WIZZIT International now deploys through leading banks in emerging markets, building on a blueprint tried and tested in the South African market.

With operations in over 9 countries, WIZZIT International offers services to over 6 million people and lays down a challenge to banks around the world: If you really want to succeed in moving people away from cash, partner with WIZZIT and have something up and running in 12 weeks.

State of financial services in South Africa

As a pioneer who has driven financial inclusion initiatives since 2004, please paint for us a picture of the state of financial services in South Africa. What are the achievements since 2004 – what still needs to change? If you had a chance to do it over again, knowing what you know today, what would you have done differently?

WIZZIT BANK 095We started in 2004 in South Africa. FinMark Trust, with whom we work closely, loved the idea of what we proposed - no one in the world was talking about such a service. In fact, they warned us against attempting to launch in the highly challenging South African market.

However, we wanted to prove the concept in our home market first. From the start we had a strong focus on financial inclusion and empowerment and saw an urgent to get banks to think differently and see that there was a business case.

The South African landscape is dominated by 4 major banks. We had the task to firstly convince banks on the idea of partnership and once they were convinced of the need, we then had to convince them why they needed us rather than going it alone.

We could not afford our own bank license, nor did the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) offer such licenses at the time. A new level of banks was proposed to be created to cater to the then 70% of the market that was unbanked. We were advised to wait for this Dedicated Banks Bill that was expected, to lower the entry requirements in the Banks Act (94 of 1990). Ten years down the line people are still waiting for the bill to be promulgated, fortunately we launched through an Alliance Banking relationship with one of the smaller banks.

GE1O7885Such a relationship was essential to gain access to the bank-owned Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) for being able to directly deposit into Wizzit accounts. We are grateful to the bank, but in hindsight we would have got to scale much quicker if we had the opportunity to have partnered with a big household name bank, as trust and credibility is important, and establishing this needs a big above-the-line marketing budget that we just did not have. We had to do things differently. We created a win-win through employing WizzKids who were largely unemployed people who could be opinion leaders and advise their friends and communities in soccer clubs and church and savings groups.

Banking and deposit-banking is the responsibility of banks, but regulation is geared for the high-end, especially things like know-you-customer regulations. Lower income consumers did not have what was needed. With some effort and lobbying we got Exemption 17 promulgated to make it easier.

We were the first to launch services under this exemption and although this was made available to the whole industry, not one of the banks offers an Exemption 17 account – a lot more needs to be done. Interestingly, six months after our launch, two of the big banks launched mobile banking but that was additive, rather than transformational in nature.

Being one of the early pioneers, we were one of the first to commercialise USSD that was critical for dealing across all segments of the market. To get new handset, SIM card or change network would be an additional barrier – does not seem fair to bank on the basis of network.

Uncertainties and how to overcome them

What are some uncertainties regarding financial services in Africa?  What should the industry do more of? What should we stop doing?

WIZZIT BANK 052Today there seems to be a lot of confusion between mobile banking and mobile payments. M-Pesa, successful in Kenya is about mobile payments, ours is about mobile banking. For mobile operators the service is strongly geared towards reducing churn. Many new entrants are entering, each with a different perspective: there are the retailers, the tech companies Google, Amazon, Apple and more.

With all of this, there is scope for enormous confusion, not just for consumers, but for would-be providers too. Often I encounter banks who believe they too need to apply for licenses for certain mobile money services for which, being a bank, this is not needed.

So the big uncertainties are regulations, interpreting these and building sound business case around mobile and provision of services to the under-banked segment, while making these interoperable.

Africa versus other regions

With your transition from WIZZIT Payments (Pty) Ltd to WIZZIT International and now that you are working outside of Africa as well, how do you compare developments in other regions against progress in Africa?


Having recently entered into South America we see tremendous untapped potential – in Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere. We are working with banks in many parts of the world, including:

  • WIZZIT and Sure Bank(South Africa)
  • Zanaco (Zambia)
  • NMB (Tanzania)
  • BCR-Erste Bank (Romania)
  • BPR (Rwanda)
  • Bank Windhoek (Namibia)
  • Bank Gaborone (Botswana)
  • Bancode Occidente (Honduras)
  • Stanbic IBTC (Nigeria)

We find technology is easy, and what we have translates well across countries. It is the regulations, the business models and processes that need expert understanding, and where we add value.

A blueprint for success in emerging markets

Please tell us about your change of focus to WIZZIT International, and how you plan to deploy your model with leading banks in emerging markets. What do banks need to do and how do you propose to help?

We believe that banks must act. What options are open to them? Firstly, they could build their own platform, which could take a good 24 months or more. Secondly, they could partner with a mobile operator, but this involves separate partnership agreements before they can cover the entire market as they should. Thirdly, they always have an option to ‘do nothing’, but that’s probably the worst and most expensive. Saving the best for last, I’d like to think, is the fourth option – partnering with WIZZIT.

In 12 weeks we could have something up, and offer not just technology, but a whole set of services around business case, and including strategic advice at CEO level. We deploy our platform that can be linked in to core banking platforms, making it easier to implement.

Expectations for changes in 2015

What is the biggest change you hope to see in financial services over 2015?

WIZZIT BANK 041As far as retail payments go, only around 0.2% of mobile payments in Africa represents purchase – it is largely for purchasing airtime of transferring money. People withdraw cash and then immediately use it around the corner to buy something.

But cash is costly, and it is also bad. I welcome a broad spectrum of innovations that help to move people from use of cash – initiatives by the governments to stop accepting cash payments in many parts of the world. This involves a change in behaviour though – this means incentives and punishment.

I look forward to a world where when at 16 years of age an individual must fend for an entire family, support structures exist to provide that individual every care and assistance. Not a world that cordons off financial services from such disadvantaged people with pressing needs, who need these services the most.

Why I wrote The Digital Money Game

Thanks for the outpouring of support to me, on the publishing of my first book, The Digital Money Game, now available on Amazon sites around the world. After I last shared about it, A number of you asked me what made me want to write this book, so I’d like to say a bit about this today.

DMGCoverWhen I strayed into the world of payments, after being in Telecoms for many years, it opened my eyes to so many new possibilities. This was around 2005 and it seemed to be a no-brainer for a telecoms operator to build new revenue streams from payments.

This proved elusive though. Firstly it was a personal challenge to try to understand so many new areas all at once, and then be able to position the business case to top management in a way that communicated both opportunities and risks. All of us had spent our lives in Telecoms, IT and non-Payments functions, and we had to rapidly understand Payments, E-Money, Regulations, Prepaid, Cash Networks and all this across multiple geographies.

Regulations did not help. At the time I blamed myself, thinking there was something more I could do. Ten years later, having worked with a world leading bank and the largest money transfer operator in the world, I got to understand regulations so much better. Now I KNOW there was little else I could do: One depends on regulators, who themselves have such a difficult time coping with the large number of changes, with a heavy burden of responsibility on their shoulders.

The truth is, this is all new. We are all learning. But that doesn’t take away the stress of not knowing, as so many of you across the world would agree! I wish I had had someone to tell me what was happening, how it would affect me and what I needed to know to stay ahead. I wanted practical cases I could learn from, and reassurance that this was an exciting space to build a new career.

This is my chance to make that wish a reality for others, by sharing the lessons I learnt and offering some tips from over 10 years I have spent launching services of the different kinds discussed in this book. I hope it will help you in some small way, to reinforce decisions you have to make, to help you to put your case forward to management and most of all to feel good about yourself and what you are achieving in this highly competitive and changing space.

I would love to hear your feedback. Did this book help you? What further questions did it raise?

Click here to go to the Amazon site. To your right you will see a green panel suggesting the most convenient online store for you. Do let me know if you face any difficulty getting access.

The Digital Money Game– a multi-trillion dollar industry emerges



I have great pleasure in announcing the launch of my new book, The Digital Money Game. I describe the multi-trillion dollar emerging industry I term “Digital Money” from the perspective of very many different industries. It is not just meant for payment experts in large organisations, but for anyone who wants to understand how people pay, and how this is changing in each part of the world.


The penetration of mobile phones and smartphones is transforming the way in which consumers interact with brands and greatly facilitates a move towards non-cash payments around the world. To play the game properly though, one needs to understand the changes in a much wider set of fundamentals - identity, security, authentication, regulations, technologies and more, so as to create appropriate vision that goes across channels, services and market segments. That way you have a more effective roadmap with respect to new entrants, and a better chance that what you plan now will still be relevant when your projects go live. I share more about why I wrote The Digital Money Game here.


The book is based on Shift Thought research in markets around the world, and my interviews with experts from all the different industries that now participate in payments and financial services. I did my first set of interviews in July 2011. Four years later, the wisdom that they, and countless others shared with me has helped to shape this book. This is the first book in The Digital Money Series and we are currently working on others in the series.

Since then I have learnt so much from so many conversations that unfortunately it is impossible to thank each one of you by name – I hope you will recognize your contributions when you read the book!


The book is designed to help you to spot opportunities and gain confidence and insights to channel your work in a way that benefits you, and the markets you serve. It addresses multiple functional areas and levels: Chief Executives, Technologists, Business Development, Market Development and Product Development executives from Banking, Cards, Money Transfer, Telecoms, Payments, Technology, Retail, and Venture Financing Industries.

The digital money approach described in this book can help you create products and services that are secure, convenient and empowering to a whole range of consumers and merchants, across a variety of channels. The goal is to create a shift in thinking – from merely addressing the new opportunity provided by mobile phones, to launching holistic services that build solid brands.


My book is available on Amazon stores around the world, priced in local currency and immediately accessible as an  Amazon Kindle download that works across Kindle for PC and a host of commonly used devices. In case it says “Pricing information not available” just look to the right of the screen to select the Amazon site in your country.

In the first 2 days that the book has been available I am delighted to say that it has already been bought from many countries around the world. Thank you so very much for your support and kind words.


Have you bought my book? I would love to have your feedback and can direct you to further resources that may be of interest. Do drop me a line at

From smartphones to super wallets: how a new breed of applications is changing mobile banking


This is an interesting time in the development of the digital payments market in Poland. The leading banks are collaborating to launch mobile payment services that potentially bypass the card schemes, allowing consumers to pay directly from their bank accounts. As a follow on from our previous blog, Transforming the way people pay in Poland Charmaine Oak interviewed Tomasz Krajewski, Head of mCommerce at eLeader. SuperWallet claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services. Tomasz shares his thoughts on the Polish payments market, as well as other markets in which eLeader has been active.


CO: Tomasz, thanks for taking the time to share with us your thoughts on the development of mobile commerce, in Poland and elsewhere in the world. To start with, could you kindly give us a short introduction on the achievements of eLeader. In which markets do you now operate, and who are your main customers?

TT: eLeader is a leading mobile software company, with experience that dates back to the origins of the smartphone industry. Our services are used in over 70 countries worldwide and clients include Grupo Santander, Unicredit Group, mBank, Danske Bank, Raiffeisen, the National Bank of Kuwait and Orange/T-Mobile.

Our innovations have allowed us to achieve a number of awards and high ranks in industry reports, including a mention in the Top worldwide mobile banking vendors report (Juniper Research, 2012), Technology Fast 50 CE (Deloitte, 2008) and the Top technology companies in Europe (Red Herring, 2013).


CO: How has eLeader gained such a leadership position in Mobile Banking?

TT: You can say that going against the current is in eLeader’s DNA. We launched in 2000 with mobile solutions to support employees to work remotely, from outside the office. In those days in Lublin, where we are based, few people had even heard about smartphones, and many felt that this was a crazy idea. And perhaps so it was, but the product was a total success.

We started to invest into mobile banking in 2006 and that was the time when people were speaking about the brilliant future of WAP protocol, forgotten today. Back then, few had heard of smartphones. The iPhone and Android had not yet made a mark. Nokia had a dominant position in the market. At that time, we believed that native apps would be the future of mobility also in the banking industry.

Our first mobile banking platform was revealed in 2007 and it was based on native apps for 3 platforms: Symbian, BlackBerry and Pocket PC. As far as we can tell, ours could well have been a world first solution, with native apps individually designed for all the major OS platforms, accounting for over 95% of the smartphone market.

Raiffeisen Bank became our first customer in Poland. I remember meeting with the President of the bank. Instead of showing a slide deck, our CEO, Dobromir Piekarski, handed him a Nokia smartphone with our banking app – without any instructions. He played with the app in silence and just asked a simple question: How much? After a negotiation of just one minute they shook hands on it. The legend is that this could have been one of the fastest decisions in the banking industry, ever!

CO: What were some of the challenges you encountered on the way?

TT: The biggest challenge was our first implementation. As mentioned earlier, we started at a time when the mobile banking industry was in its infancy. There was a lack of best practices and useful benchmarks. We had to convince the clients to use our solution, without any projects in the portfolio, armed only with cold calling. Can you imagine what that was like?

We had to design a new concept of application interface, UX and security measures.

Most banks were generally skeptical about native apps at that time; many said that we are going in the wrong direction. Fortunately very soon the iPhone changed the whole industry and attitudes to mobile apps. Native apps went main-stream, and became the norm.

Another milestone was reached when we entered foreign markets. By that time we had something to show in our portfolio, but still needed to prove that an unknown Polish company was able to make great applications and that too without any branches in the client’s country.


CO: In what way is Innovation in mobile banking held back by compliance requirements?

TT: Did you know that when the financial crisis came to Poland none of the banks have announced bankruptcy?It seems that none of them have even been in danger of such a situation.

To some extent this is thanks to Polish banking supervision which is very strict in terms of control. However, on the other hand regulations are so far-reaching that they do not allow banks to overstep clearly defined and legally imposed limits. This extends also to the sphere of innovation. You can say that from the regulator point of view, banking is for banks, and deviations from this principle are not allowed.

For instance, take the most used mobile banking functionality – checking one’s bank account balance. Because this is considered disclosure under banking secrecy, bank should require that the user authenticates before gaining access to balance information. Some of banks will ask you to login. Other banks will show you only the percentage of funds left in your account. There is also a bank which lets users choose which of the options would suit them best. You may say this is not a big innovation, but it clearly shows that users want the simplest solutions possible.

Non-bank start-ups are not subject to banking regulations, which is undoubtedly their competitive advantage in the market.


CO: In what areas do you see mobile security improving over the next 3 years?

TT: The trend to watch is certainly biometrics. My voice will be my password to mobile banking. Gartner predicts 30% of organizations will use biometric authentication on mobile in 2016 so this is worth watching.


CO: What has caused the Polish market to develop more rapidly than some other European markets in recent years?

TT: Polish people don’t use checks, and we never did. When in the 90s Poland entered capitalism after the communist era, emerging banking industry implemented only the newest IT solutions, leap frogging the old payment systems. This is one of the reasons why today we lead in contactless payments globally, and can transfer money from one bank to another in just 30 seconds, thanks to the Elixir Express standard.

Contactless penetration in Poland is higher than anywhere else in Europe or the Americas. This is largely because Visa and MasterCard have invested to subsidize contactless readers, so as to transform Poland into a showcase market for contactless payments. We are at the forefront not just in penetration of cards with a contactless function (20 million, 57.7% of all cards on the market) but also in number of POS accepting contactless payments (in the fourth quarter of 2013 this was already 170 thousand, or 52.1% of all the devices on the market).

Other important favorable factors for Poland include the high mobile and internet penetration, the highly educated society and our continued economic growth. According to Person’s ranking our education is ranked 10th in the world and the last time we had a recession was at the beginning of the XXIII century.


CO: How does eLeader expect to continue to play a leadership role in Europe, and elsewhere?

TT: The year 2014 is critical for us, as it is the time for us to launch the new mobile solutions that we have developed through our focused Research & Development over the last few years.

The product we are now introducing to the market is the SuperWallet. It is a combination of m-banking, m-commerce and m-payments. The biggest innovation of these is our embedded in-app commerce services. These services allow users to, for instance purchase public transport tickets, shop for groceries with home delivery, pay for cinema tickets, order taxis and pizzas or book flights.

Our aim is to transform mobile banking into the first choice financial app for smartphone users by supporting them to perform all their daily activities. Recent SAS studies point out that, above all, users perceive mobile wallets as a way to buy goods online, pay bills and check bank accounts. All of these and much more can be achieved by one SuperWallet app.

Together with an ecosystem of integrated merchants, the SuperWallet is offered as a white label solution for banks in a PaaS (Payments as a Service) model.

This has already been successfully deployed by the biggest Santander Group bank in the CEE region, Bank Zachodni WBK, and is gaining popularity among its users. Because the SuperWallet has very flexible architecture and a wide array of capabilities, we are greatly excited to see how it will be used by banks from outside the CEE region.

I believe that the SuperWallet is at the cusp of an emerging market trend. Solutions that are similar but limited to in-app purchases can be found in ICICI Bank and PrivatBank offers.


CO: Tomasz, thanks for your time today!

This has been incredibly informative, and provided us with interesting insights into the payments scene in Poland. Above all, what you have achieved at eLeader is most inspiring and I take this opportunity to wish you the best of success with your plans for the SuperWallet and beyond.

Tomasz Krajewski

Tomasz Krajewski is Head of mCommerce/Superwallet at eLeader. He is responsible for development of SuperWallet, which claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services, thus adding value to mobile banking. The first SuperWallet was deployed in November 2013 in BZ WBK (the biggest bank of Santander Group in CEE). eLeader is one of the world's top mobile innovators in the smartphone business software market, used by global and national companies in over 70 countries worldwide.