In London, we get mugged for our mobiles. As Vodafone’s Susie Lonie showed, in Kenya, mobiles and the M-PESA scheme is making life a lot safer for people, especially in the areas of Nairobi where carrying cash in best described as unwise. The system is currently in the sixth month of its pilot phase and already £24,000 is being transferred through the system each week.
Customers are using the system for P2P payments, for example sending money to relatives in areas badly served by banks, to receive salary payments and for disbursement and repayment of loans through microfinancing organisations I was struck how Kenyans are making use of an existing infrastructure – mobile phones – rather than investing in expensive new POS systems to provide brand new services that compete with existing and far more expensive money transfer suppliers like Western Union. From April, the system will be scaling up for a full launch.
Back in the UK, Jonathan Attwood of Swapitshop is now running what he describes as one of the largest UK online banks. Except it isn’t because Swapits aren’t cash. Instead, the system is like a cross between Ebay and Nectar, for children. It certainly seems to be bringing out the entrepreneurial side of its youthful participants – Jonathan says it provides an excellent training in finance for children and already some of them have mastered the principles of day trading, arbitrage and market making. I’ll be writing at greater length for my marketing newsletter about how companies serving the youth market are using Swapitshop for valuable market research.
One of the best bits of the Forums for me are always the panels, if only for the random yet fascinating facts they throw up. For example, did you know that there’s a mobile payments system in the Democratic Republic of Congo that regularly sees transactions in the range of $1 million? And, on the other side of the globe, TfL is now experimenting with variable road pricing in Southwark as a possible successor to that blunt instrument, the Congestion Charge.
More usefully perhaps, we heard that Edgar Dunn & Co will be releasing a report next week about the future of mobile payments. They see them as a sure thing in the short to medium term although the industry experts they interviewed are evenly divided as to whether that will be in 3-5 years or 5-10 years. What is sure however is that once the business case is pinned down, mobile payments will change the way consumers interact with financial services.
More tomorrow from the Digital Money Forum!