Leveraging Fintech to Achieve Financial Inclusion in Indonesia

by Ghiyazuddin Mohammad and John Owens (reposted from MicroSave’s blog)

“Fintech” – an intersection of financial services and technology – is taking the traditional financial world by storm. Indonesia is no exception, with a fast-evolving ecosystem that includes a host of financial services offered by new generation fintechs.

The diagram below, by no means exhaustive, highlights a few of the fintech players covering a myriad of financial services like payments, credit, savings, insurance, and financial management.

MS_BlogIndonesia – Perfectly Placed to Reap “Fintech”

Indonesia is the fourth largest mobile market in the world with 339.9 million connections – a SIM penetration of 131%! 43% of Indonesians already own a smartphone. Furthermore, Indonesia is going “mobile-first” with 64.1 million out of a total of 88.1 million users accessing Internet through mobile devices. This is fuelling social media usage by platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Blackberry, Line, Path, etc. This trend is also leading to explosive growth in electronic and mobile commerce, with big names such as Alibaba, Softbank, Sequoia, Rocket Internet, and Temasek backing local ventures. In contrast, only 36% of 250 million Indonesians have access to formal financial services.

Keeping these technological advancements in context, Indonesia is well placed to leverage “fintech” towards the cause of financial inclusion. Fintech innovations are providing a range of new opportunities to dramatically change four main financial service areas – payments, remittances, credit and deposit-taking.

Leveraging Savings

Without access to formal financial services, many poor Indonesians continue to utilise informal services such as Arisan (ROSCAs), package saving schemes, and savings with individual agents.1 The bank deposit-to-GDP ratio in Indonesia (an indicator of deposit mobilisation) stands at 34.55% – much lower than Malaysia (130.25%), Cambodia (42.97%), and the Philippines (54.38%). This presents a big opportunity to all financial service providers, but especially new fintech players.

If we look at examples from other countries, Equity Bank in Kenya is one of the best examples of deposit mobilisation through digital banking services. After starting agency banking in 2011, the bank now mobilises 20%2 of its total deposits through a channel network of 25,388 agents, spread across the country. A dedicated team focusing on agency banking business and a client-centric business model based on the philosophy of “listening to customers” has made this possible. Other examples include, M-Pawa’s interest-bearing savings account in Tanzania, developed in collaboration between Vodacom and CBA and the Lock Savings Account offered to M-Shwari users in Kenya, where clients can move money from their M-Pesa account to save through a fixed deposit account that earns higher rates of interest.

Other examples include rural banks in the Philippines which were one of the first financial service providers to offer SMS reminders for commitment savings that allowed for dramatic increases in savings rates.3 This has been followed by new fintech players supporting banks to support increased savings behaviours in low-income customers such as Juntos. Similarly, there is also a significant potential to utilise SMS technology and/or messaging platforms to support goal-based savings in Indonesia. A case in point, is the common practice of saving to meet expenditures for major religious events like Ramadan.

Enabling Payments

A booming e-commerce sector, fuelled by large international investors, needs an intuitive online and offline payments infrastructure. However, a 2015 Bank Indonesia study documented that 89.7% of the transactions in Indonesia are in cash. This provides a tremendous opportunity. Consider the following payment process in order to make a purchase through a leading e-commerce portal for those with bank accounts:

Navigation through multiple websites makes the payment process clumsy, leading to poor user experience. In addition, most online portals limit payment options to those with bank accounts or provides cash-on-delivery options which are costly to operators. Using mobile/electronic wallets for payments, an option available for leading e-commerce portals such as Tokopedia and Elevania, can provide a more seamless experience to customers as well as reduced expenses for operators.

Further, offline payments through mobile/electronic wallets also present a significant use case. Kopokopo―a leading merchant aggregator in East Africa with more than 10,000 merchants―is a successful example of providing a mobile-based small value merchant payment platform. Apart from acquiring merchants, the organisation focuses on providing value-added services such as merchant cash advances, transaction analysis tools, and merchant/customer engagement initiatives to ensure merchants remain active. Easypaisa in Pakistan and PayTM in India are other notable examples for merchant payments. Closer home – players like TCash, Tapp Commerce and Dimo Pay are catching up fast. The idea is to integrate the payment and financial service habits of users through a single e-wallet/account. This could then be used for a variety of payments whether making purchases online, pay for Gojek/Uber, restaurant bills, or bill payments.

Easing Remittances

Remittances–both domestic and international–are a big market in Indonesia. However, most domestic remittances are largely informal and cash based. In a research conducted by Gallup, 50% of the Indonesians said that they sent money to their family or friends in the preceding 12 months, in “cash”. An average of US$ 87.40 is sent about 1.6 times a month! Evidently, a huge untapped market waiting to be facilitated via fintech players. This is especially relevant to mobile/e-money users where 71.5% of all transactions (by value) are person-to-person transfers.

Indonesia provides a US$10.5 billion international remittance market – an opportunity for new fintech players to add value to a market heavily dominated by money transfer operators such as Western Union. This is especially the case with remittance prices, averaging 5% to 8.60% of the amount sent.4 Notable fintech players in this segment such as WorldRemit have already partnered with Dompetku – a mobile money service offered by Indosat Ooredoo. However, there is a compelling need for focused players to cater to Indonesian migrant workers, predominantly based in Malaysia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States.

Access to Credit

The World Bank estimates that only 13.1% of the Indonesians have borrowed from a formal financial institution. Further, domestic credit to GDP ratio in Indonesia is 43.5%, lower than its neighbours including Malaysia (140.5%), Vietnam (113.8%), the PhilippinesMS_Blog31 (55.8%) and China (169.3%). Online, fintech-based lending can play a pivotal role in narrowing this credit gap. Micro and MSME loans based on alternate credit assessment models are growing across the developing world.

Mshwari in Kenya offers small/instant loans in collaboration with Central Bank of Africa (CBA). Credit assessment is built on data generated on the basis of airtime usage, M-Pesa usage, length of association, etc. Tigo Tanzania (Tigo Nivushe), MTN Ghana (Mjara loans) and Equity Bank (Eazzy loan) are other examples of this model.

Given the market size in Indonesia, there is huge scope for growth. Following global cues, fintech credit players such as Uang Teman, Mekar, and Modalku have already emerged in Indonesia.

To read the entire article click here 


Facebook: The New Game Changer for Mobile Payments & Remittances 



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Facebook: The New Game Changer for Mobile Payments & Remittances


Image from themediaoctupus

As predicted last year, new financial players especially social media giants like WeChat and now Facebook can be major players in the mobile payment space.  Facebook in particular has the widest global outreach among social networks and has already been offering money transfer and related mobile payment services in the US since last year. Now Facebook has announced plans to enhance digital transactions to pay for physical goods in stores.  Given the large number of Facebook users and the major network effect of remote family members, not only could Facebook be a major player in mobile payments but, more importantly, mobile-enable cross border remittances.

Mark Zuckerberg recently shared that Facebook would “partner with everyone who does payments.”  In addition, Forbes reported that Facebook was working with multiple businesses including Uber to facilitate payments. While the slow uptake in a market like the US, which already has multiple competing payment platforms is understandable, the real demand would be in developing markets, especially those with the largest number of active Facebook users such as the Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and the Philippines.  Even though many of these markets have various alternatives to making payments, a Messenger wallet that allows people to send money and pay for goods not only from linked bank accounts but also prepaid and e-money accounts could dramatically increase financial inclusion especially in counties like Indonesia and the Philippines.

It is also clear that Facebook isn’t planning to directly make money by taking a cut from mobile payment transactions made through Messenger, but rather provide a better value proposition to increase usage of Messenger and increase revenue via its advertising business.

As mentioned, in countries with large international remittances including India, Mexico and the Philippines, a Facebook facilitated cross border remittance service that is free and would only require small currency exchange fees could completely disrupt the entire remittance industry and would rapidly achieve the goals of the G20’s Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion to bring down the costs of remittances below 5%.

In a more recent article Forbes noted that the success of Facebook’s bigger payments play on Messenger will come down to execution. While Facebook takes a page out of the success behind WeChat’s  mobile payments service in China it will not only have to take into account the differences between markets but will also need to incorporate linkages to bank and non-bank financial providers that offer simple transactional accounts like e-money, mobile money and prepaid debit cards. In markets that are challenged with complicated or limited interbank funds transfers, Facebook could dramatically ease interoperability not only between those with bank accounts but also those with non-bank e-money or mobile money accounts.  Facebook will also need to ensure security and trust, however, this should be achievable via Facebook’s two factor authentication.

My prediction is that Facebook could be the game changer for not only mobile payments in the developing world but also remittances.  Facebook will definitely be the new mobile payment player to watch this year.

My Thoughts on Payments, Blockchain and new Technologies in the Philippines and other Emerging Markets

Eight trends that will impact financial inclusion in 2015

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My Thoughts on Payments, Blockchain and new Technologies in the Philippines and other Emerging Markets

The following article appeared in the Zooz Industry Influencer and Q&A blog.

imagesCould you tell us a bit about the current state of payments in the Philippines? The Philippines is undergoing a tremendous change in terms of the payments space with new developments in the banking industry, fintech players entering the marketplace, a growing number of payment service providers, e-commerce marketplaces and a lot of interest among both the private and public sector to support a growing shift to electronic payments.

Why is the Central Bank Chief calling on bankers to help create a National Retail Payment System?
The Central Bank [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)] is now calling on the banking sector as well as other regulated financial industry players to support the creation of a National Retail Payment System (NRPS). The NRPS is envisioned to help Filipinos have greater access to financial services primarily through electronic accounts to make payments, receive or transfer funds to other accounts anytime, anywhere and at a reasonable price from any digital device. As the BSP Governor recently pointed out, “Efficient retail payments contribute to the stability and efficiency of the financial system and the economy as a whole. Studies have shown that shifting from paper-based to electronic-based payment system can generate an annual savings up to 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).” As has been noted in the recent study by the Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA), Filipinos make over 2.5 billion transactions a month worth over $74 billion but only 1% are done electronically with the other 99% made via cash or check. This fact, along with the ability to connect to almost all Filipinos digitally via a mobile device, allows for a tremendous opportunity for the payments industry to make a real difference not only from the standpoint of overall economic growth but it also serves as an excellent business opportunity. As the Governor summed up during the recent 25th anniversary of BancNet, “The NRPS initiative is a rare opportunity for all of us to work together to do something that can be a real positive game changer for the economy and for our people.”

What role (if any) is bitcoin playing in the emerging market regions that you follow?
Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are often talked about but transaction volumes are still quite small. Globally, there are only around 100,000 bitcoin transactions a day. If we compare mobile e-money in countries like Tanzania, we see that the number of transactions per day is now over 3 million. Central banks have taken a cautious approach to virtual currencies which is best summed up by the BSP warning issued last year, which cautioned the public about using virtual currencies. The recent move by the New York Department of Financial Services to license virtual currencies is most likely a trend that will be continued in other jurisdictions. Apart from virtual currencies, I think the more interesting development is the use of blockchain technology which potentially offers tremendous opportunities to support the development of payments. Banks and various regulators around the world are now starting to look into this technology to better enable a variety of financial transactions.

Which emerging markets do you see as being most receptive to mobile payments – and why?
Africa, especially East Africa, is still the leader in mobile payments primarily due to the lack of reasonable alternatives and the rapid expansion of agent networks that have provided enough touch points to make it even easier to cash-in or cash-out of accounts, and, more importantly, sufficient value added use cases.

Are there any new companies or technologies that you see transforming the payments space over the next six months to a year?
I previously wrote about the 8 trends that will impact both digital payments and financial inclusion earlier this year. While we are seeing several new players enter the marketplace in many countries and regions, I do think the changes to policies on national retail payments now taking place in several markets including the Philippines and active support from both the governments and private sector to shift to e-payments in several key markets will be the main drivers that will take advantage of the convergence of financial players including traditional banks, new payment service providers, and new technologies that will transform the payments space over the coming year.

To read the full article, please click here.


Eight Trends that will Impact Financial Inclusion in 2015

Developing a Safe and Secure Digital Payment Ecosystem to Promote Financial Inclusion

Digital Financial Services, Regulations and Financial Inclusion: Where Are We Headed?

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The importance of money transfer operators and the issue of de-risking in the Pacific Islands

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

John Owens

Dr. Sione Ngongo Kioa, Governor at the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (far right) and Ms. Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari, Governor at the Central Bank of Samoa (second from right), discuss MTOs with John Owens, senior policy advisors at AFI (middle), and Robert Bell, founder at KlickEx (far left). Dr. Sione Ngongo Kioa, Governor at the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (far right), and Ms. Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari, Governor at the Central Bank of Samoa (second from right), discuss the issue of de-risking and MTOs with John Owens, senior policy advisor at AFI (middle), and Robert Bell, founder at KlickEx (far left), at the launch of the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative in Dili, Timor-Leste.

The issue of de-risking and the related impact on remittances has arisen recently at a series of high-level conferences and forums across the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Network. During the G24-AFI Policymakers’ Roundtable in Washington, DC, there was a clear reference to the threat to financial inclusion posed by de-risking strategies of international banks, especially in countries where remittances form an essential part of financial safety net. The G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion has committed to lowering the costs of remittances…

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Innovative Financial Services that are Driving Financial Inclusion in the Pacific Islands

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New mobile money schemes extend banking reach in Ethiopia after NBE issues new guidelines


Mobile banking image in Ethiopia from PCTech magazine 

After AFI member institution National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) finalized their guidelines on mobile and agent banking they continued to support the sector by encouraging the use of digital financial services by conducting a workshop in December 2014 entitled “How to Operationalize Digital Financial Service: Mobile and Agent Banking within the Ethiopian Context.”

The workshop brought together policymakers, financial institutions, government stakeholders and development partners to establish a shared understanding among stakeholders driving financial inclusion in Ethiopia. Moreover, the workshop was facilitated by international experts drawn from different parts of the world having specific subject matter expertise in demand, distribution, technology and regulatory aspect of digital financial services.

Around the same time, several Ethiopian banks and microfinance institutions launched mobile enabled e-money services in 2014, which are predicted to rapidly bring financial services to millions of Ethiopians in the next few years.

For the full article see New Mobile Money Schemes Extend Banking Reach in Ethiopia after NBE Issues New Guidelines

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Public-private sector dialogue advancing financial inclusion through digital financial services in Russia

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

Mikhail Mamuta and John Owens

AFI and the Central Bank of Russia workshop “Digital Financial Services: Promoting Financial Inclusion” panel is pictured in Moscow in October 2014.

Learning from legislative and regulatory practices in countries which have successfully launched new digital financial service approaches, as well as maintaining an open dialogue with the private sector are essential for countries wishing to harness digital financial services to advance financial inclusion. This was the theme of the recent Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and Central Bank of Russia (CBR) workshop entitled “Digital Financial Services: Promoting Financial Inclusion” held in Moscow in October 2014.

The workshop focused on these key issues:

  • Digital financial service trends in Russia and around the world;
  • The example of M-Pesa in Kenya and Romania to support digital financial services;
  • Risk mitigation and management for digital financial services;
  • Which players are ready to offer digital financial services in Russia?…

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Mobile e-money taking off in Côte d’Ivoire

Mobile e-money taking off in Côte d’Ivoire

(reposted from Alliance for Financial Inclusion News Updates)

Mobile phones in call centre in a village in the sub-prefecture of Seguela, 592 kms from Abidjan in September 2013. Photo credit: SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images

Located on the coast of West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Spread over an area of ​​322,460 sq km with a population of 20 million, the country is one of the rising examples of the dramatic affect of mobile e-money on financial inclusion largely due to a supportive policy and regulatory environment, a growing mobile phone penetration rate that has increased from 50 percent in 2008 to over 100 percent in 2014 and an active mobile e-money sector largely driven by new non-bank players.

As in many other countries in Africa, limited access to financial services, which had been previously limited to banks and microfinance players, is now being overcome by new non-bank mobile-enabled e-money players in Côte d’Ivoire. While access to banking and microfinance was only 21.8 percent at end 2013, the new digital e-money players are now helping drive financial access rates to approximately 66.3 percent of the population. The financial landscape in Côte d’Ivoire is now changing due to a dynamic sector, comprised of not only banks and microfinance institutions but also new e-money issuers. The whole sector is now changing to adopt digital financial services to support greater financial inclusion on a scale and growth rate that has even surpassed the uptake in even the well-known e-money markets in East Africa. It is also important to note that apart from the two new non-bank e-money institutions there are also six joint e-money partnerships between telecom operators and banks.

Dramatic Uptake of E-Money

The overall performance indicators show that mobile enabled e-money services are growing on a per capita basis at one of the fastest rates of any country in Africa. By the end of 2014, there were over 4.6 million active e-money customers (up over 240 percent from 2013) which transferred more than CFA 2,233 billion ($4.6 billion) in transactions (up more than 186 percent from 2013). The agent network likewise grew from 10,752 from 2013 to 19,260 in 2014.

Table 1: Key indicators of E-Money in Côte d’Ivoire

For the full article read here: Mobile e-money taking off in Côte d’Ivoire.

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Wing Pushes Digital Finance Frontiers Further in Cambodia

Wing CambodiaReposted from a blog by Eric Duflos @CGAP

The shift from traditional microfinance and banking to digital is easy to see in Cambodia. All the market leaders such as ACLEDA Bank, AMK, and AMRET are increasingly using technology and agents to serve their customers.

A few weeks ago, Wing, a leading third-party payments provider in Cambodia, obtained a specialized bank license from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). With $4.5 billion in transaction volume in 2014, and an estimated 1.5 million customers (in a country of 15 million inhabitants), Wing has become a leading player in financial inclusion in Cambodia. Wing has one million over-the-counter (OTC) customers and about 500,000 registered customers who can make transactions with cards or mobile phone either in Riel or in dollars. The average transaction size is at $110. In comparison, the microfinance sector in Cambodia has about two million borrowers and 2.3 million depositors. These figures reflect considerable penetration of microfinance and increasingly of digital payments as well. According to Wing, 67% of its customers are rural and 37% are women.

The announcement of Wing’s new specialized bank is groundbreaking. In other countries, we see increasing collaboration between Mobile Network Operators or payment providers and banks to broaden the product offering to low income such as for M-Shwari in Kenya. In contrast, Wing hopes to use its specialized bank license to offer a wider range of services beyond payments. It will be interesting to see what kind of advantages the new license will bring Wing customers as well as for its business model and how it might affect the traditional banking and microfinance sector.

According to Wing CEO, from a customer perspective, the new license would enable those registered customers to get some interest on the balance they hold on their Wing account. Customers will get 1% per annum which is more than most banks and MFIs pay on deposits. As for credit so far Wing has only provided airtime credits to its customers so that they can automatically top up when they run out of airtime. Wing also intends to provide credit lines to its agents who usually borrow to manage liquidity (20% of their agents currently borrow money for such purpose). Wing will also develop international remittance services for Cambodians working abroad who want to remit funds home.

For Wing’s everyday business, the new license means that they are now fully accountable to the NBC, and fully independent from ANZ, the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. Wing expects to get significant income from the e-float deposited in banks, which was not the case when Wing was related with ANZ. It could also mean Wing would be able to develop new products with more agility, which is important in an increasingly competitive environment. Metfone has just received a third-party payment processor licenses, and others are expected to follow. These new players could compete for Wing’s agents in the future. Wing’s independence from ANZ will bring opportunities for new partnerships with other players. For example Wing plans to share its 2,500 agents with MFIs for loan repayment and with banks for cash withdrawal. Wing is already collaborating with eight MFIs on loan repayment collection.

But the license also raises challenges for Wing and for the financial inclusion industry at large. Being a bank is a different business from being a third party payment processor. The new reporting and supervision requirements from the National Bank of Cambodia may not always be easy to manage. It will also directly report to the Financial Intelligence Unit on AML/CFT issues. Wing will need to acquire new skills and new staff which will take time and resources.

This situation may also create challenges for NBC as it will also require new regulations and staff with the skills to supervise in areas such as safeguarding e-float and protecting customers. It is indeed crucial in such a fast evolving environment to ensure good protection of low-income customers’ money. The NBC is well aware of the issue.

Finally, the license raises questions for the traditional financial inclusion providers. Will the license force a bigger change across the traditional banking sectors where players may feel the need to compete with all things Wing does? Or is the Wing effort likely to lead to greater specialization by different players where Wing and similar organizations build partnerships with other institutions to deliver services? Do-it-alone or do it through partnerships? This question is even more relevant since Wing also hopes to get a full bank license in the coming years.

To read the full article click here.


Eight trends that will impact financial inclusion in 2015

My Own Thoughts on the Mobile Money Predictions for 2013

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New Financial Inclusion Innovation in Colombia: Electronic Deposits

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

María del Rosario Moreno Sánchez

Colombia is a prominent example of a country that has included financial inclusion as a priority in its national agenda since a very early stage. Indeed, in 2006, the Colombian government created a unique national agency that works with the financial sector and deals exclusively with financial inclusion and education—Banca de las Oportunidades. Moreover, Colombia approved many relevant policy and regulatory reforms focused on promoting a greater financial inclusion by using correspondent agents (municipal agents), and the use of mobile banking to deposit conditional cash transfers to social programs beneficiaries of “Famililas en Acción”.

Lately, on 21 October 2014, the Colombian Congress passed Law No. 1735 and created a new type of financial institution called Sociedades Especializadas en Depósitos y Pagos Electrónicos (Specialized Electronic Deposit and Payment Institutions). Sociedades are a new deposit-taking license entity that can be incorporated by a…

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