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.

Related:

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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Eight trends that will impact financial inclusion in 2015

My own predictions for eight trends that will shape digital financial inclusion in 2015.

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

John Owens

A man displays his phone in Kenya.

The use of digital financial services will continue to be one of the main drivers for financial inclusion in 2015. In the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Network, we have noted quite a few interesting trends both on the technology side and the policy side that should have a direct impact on advancing financial inclusion through digital means this year.

1. Agent Banking Expanding in Other Regions

While agent banking has been around for several years in Latin America, it will expand quite a bit in other regions, especially Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. In the past couple of years we have seen 17 new Maya Declarations by central banks and policymakers around the world focusing on agent banking regulations and targets.

See the 2104 Maya Declaration Progress Report

The number of policies and regulatory changes increased significantly in 2014…

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Central Bank of Yemen issues new mobile banking regulations

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

John Owens

A Yemeni money changer serves a customer at his small shop in Sanaa. A Yemeni money changer serves a customer at his small shop in Sanaa.

On 11 December 2014, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) issued new mobile banking regulations following an almost two-year process of reviews and discussions with the private sector and support from USAID, the World Bank, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). While there was much debate and a lot of international expertise that was brought to Yemen to develop this regulation, the central bank still wanted to learn from other central banks from around the world as well as address some lingering internal concerns. Mansour Rageh, who is the Deputy Manager for Islamic and Specialist Banks at the Central Bank of Yemen and the bank’s representative to the Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s (AFI) Digital Financial Services Working Group (DFSWG), recently visited the new AFI office in Kuala…

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Easypaisa ATM Cards: Demonstrating the Value of Convergence

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Easypaisa, Pakistan’s first and largest branchless banking provider, initially focused on mobile enabled e-money and agents to facilitate access to banking services.  Over time, Easypaisa realized the value of convergence and building on the existing banking infrastructure by allowing funds transfers from and to any bank in the country.  In addition, in December 2013, they went from a pure mobile cardless solution to offering ATM/debit cards that allowed their members to access ATM and POS debit cards across the country.  This integration and convergence now allows for Easypaisa clients to take advantage of the existing banking infrastructure in a way that a mobile only solution could never support and is a good lesson learned for others offering mobile e-money solutions.

Below is an excerpt from Easypaisa’s recent announcement on achieving 250,000 registered ATM/debit card holders.

In January 2015, Easypaisa has reached a milestone of more than 250,000 ATM Card users, a number which validates the trust and faith that customers have placed in the service and the convenience it has brought in their lives.

Every month, more than PKR 1 Billion are being withdrawn using Easypaisa ATM cards. Prior to the ATM Cards, Mobile Account users were able to withdraw cash from their Mobile Accounts from any of the 50,000 Easypaisa shops. However, with the launch of Easypaisa ATM Cards, Mobile Account users can now withdraw cash from any of the 6,000+ ATMs (1-Link or M-Net) across Pakistan.

Unlike conventional banking norms, where bank customers have to wait for weeks to get a new ATM card delivered to their home, Easypaisa ATM cards can be picked up from any Telenor Service Center, Sahulat Ghar or Tameer Microfinance Bank branch and can be activated instantly without any additional documentation requirements. Easypaisa ATM cards meet all the banking standards and are cost effective; each ATM card costs PKR 200 only and does not have any annual or recurring charges. The major benefit of the Easypaisa ATM card is that a replacement card does not take weeks; a new Easypaisa ATM card can be picked up again and activated instantly.

In only 5 years, Easypaisa has gained intense momentum, recognition and popularity amongst the unbanked people of Pakistan through its comprehensive services and a large network of agents. The Easypaisa ATM card is an instrumental product for those segments that only have a need to withdraw money, for example, pensioners and social cash transfer beneficiaries. The customers in these segments rarely own a mobile phone, nor do they have adequate literacy levels to operate a mobile phone. For such users, the Easypaisa ATM Card is a much more familiar instrument to withdraw funds from the nearest ATM or a Bank POS machine.

The Easypaisa Mobile Account, as a whole offers a wide portfolio of services that encourages formal savings, and a cost effective method of withdrawing funds, paying bills and transferring funds. It remains the easiest and fastest Branchless Banking account to open from any Telenor Service Center, Sahulat Ghar or Tameer Microfinance Bank branch. In a country with 100 million plus adults and estimated to have only 15 million Bank Account customers, Easypaisa stands committed to Financial Inclusion with a registered customer base of 3.3 million Mobile Accounts.

See more at http://www.easypaisa.com.pk/

Related:

Congratulations to Easypaisa on its 5th year Anniversary! 

Lesson #3: Using Mobile Money to Promote Financial Inclusion: Focus on Building Trust

My Own Thoughts on the Mobile Money Predictions for 2013

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Renaming this Blog: Moving from Mobile Money to Digital Financial Services for Development

Taken from the Mobile Money Pakistan Blog

Taken from the Mobile Money Pakistan Blog

In 2012, I set this blog up to focus on my work and experiences supporting mobile money for development.  At that time, much of the world interest was in the use of mobile technology and especially mobile enabled e-money services to support development.  Over the years, however, I have witnessed the growing importance of the convergence of various financial players from payment operators, both traditional companies and new start ups, banks and various new financial players, to other third party operators to support broader digital financial services to promote financial inclusion.  As I have mentioned in my post last year, these expanded services include greater integration and convergence of electronic funds transfers, debit/ATM cards, and agent banking.  Over the past couple of years, a range of public and private players including USAID, DFID, GIZ, the IFC, the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGAP, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, and other groups have actively supported or focused on policy areas that promoted the use of digital financial services for greater financial inclusion.

As stated in the blog article Offering Digital Financial Services to Promote Financial Inclusion: Lessons We’ve Learned, the greater role of governments, regulators, private sector players and, more importantly, the role and perspective of clients at the base of the economic pyramid, now have a much better chance of accomplishing deeper financial inclusion than we have seen in the past.  Based on my observations and the importance of looking more broadly at the use of digital payments and other forms of digital financial services, I have decided to rename this blog to the Digital Financial Services for Development blog.

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog on the digital financial services predictions for 2015!

Related:

Offering Digital Financial Services to Promote Financial Inclusion: Lessons We’ve Learned

Moving from Mobile Money to Digital Financial Services for Financial Inclusion 

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

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Participants take part in the “Digital Financial Services: Where are we Headed?” panel at the 2014 GPF in Trinidad and Tobago.

Key central bank governors from Africa, Latin America and the Asia Pacific recently shared their views on the role of digital financial services and financial inclusion.

African Perspective

Africa continues to innovate in the area of digital financial inclusion, primarily via mobile-enabled electronic money services. Digital financial services have continued to dramatically expand both access as well as the range of options to further support not only for financial inclusion but economic growth opportunities as well. In addition to e-money being utilized as a money transfer service, it is now being used as the rails to increase access to a broader variety of financial services, from banking services such as deposits and loans to promoting payment opportunities for micro and small businesses to buy supplies and sell goods and services.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Njuguna Ndung’u pointed out:

“In Africa, physical distance is a barrier to financial services and Africans are happy that digital financial services have become a platform that has taken off.”
However, the Governor also stressed the view that greater interoperability and interconnectivity between banks, payment providers and electronic money issuers will be important to continuously deepen access to financial services.

Africa is also now witnessing several changes to the regulatory framework around e-money platforms, which are further supporting and strengthening their appeal. New regulatory developments in countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda as well as others in the region are helping to support and bring down the costs of cross border remittances via mobile-enabled e-money. In addition, as more customers store funds in their mobile-enabled e-money wallets, regulators are also taking notice to ensure that customers are both protected and provided with benefits that come with saving funds in the only manner some customers are able to in their countries via an e-money wallet. In particular, Kenya and Nigeria are planning to allow pass through deposit insurance for the holders of e-money trust accounts. Tanzania also has recently issued a circular that allows e-money issuers to distribute interest paid by banks on e-money trust accounts to the individual customers of these accounts.

Latin American Perspective

Santiago Peña, board member at Banco Central del Paraguay, discusses the future of digital financial services in developing regions around the globe.

Santiago Peña, board member at Banco Central del Paraguay, discusses the future of digital financial services in developing regions around the globe.
The scene across Latin America is also changing rapidly as regulators seek to balance both the protection of customers as well as support the expansion of responsible digital financial services. Paraguay has been the early leader in the region, notably in regard to the expansion of non-bank electronic money services and greater access to digital financial inclusion. Twenty percent of the population in Paraguay is now conducting mobile-enabled payment transactions and there are now more mobile-enabled e-money subscribers than bank accounts in the country. “Mobile-enabled electronic money accounts have had the greatest impact in the shortest period of time in terms of reaching the unbanked with a financial service that uniquely serves their needs,” said Santiago Peña, board member at Banco Central del Paraguay (BCP). But he also pointed out traditional banks now recognize the opportunity to make use of e-money services entering this market as well in the region.

Other countries across Latin America are also quickly changing and adapting laws and regulations focused on increasing digital financial inclusion, most recently in Uruguay, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The recent financial inclusion law in Uruguay now requires that over the next four years all government agencies transition to making payments via e-money. To ensure broad-based access the law mandates these e-money accounts be free to open, not include maintenance fees, and have no minimum balance requirements. Colombia’s recent financial inclusion law further strengthens and expands digital financial access channels for all Colombians. The law allows for the establishment of new electronic deposit and payment entities which will be able to not only be able to offer e-money services popular in other countries but also treat these accounts as deposit accounts with providers allowed to pay interest, and to have these accounts covered under the national deposit insurance scheme.

Peru has come up with well-defined regulations on e-money, which were adopted after AFI supported knowledge exchange visits to Africa and Asia. This has allowed the opening of the market to a broad range of both bank and non-bank financial institutions. One of the most exciting developments in Peru is the new approach to supporting interoperability and interconnectivity among multiple players and institutions under the Modelo Peru. This new initiative involves the establishment of a mobile payment ecosystem based on a shared e-money platform, which can be used by all parties, including: financial players (banks, savings and loans and microfinance institutions), mobile network operators and government entities.

Mobile-enabled e-money services are also taking off in Bolivia with operators processing over USD 15.9 million from January 2013- March 2014. According to Bolivia’s central bank there are now more than 628,000 registered mobile-enabled e-money wallets in Bolivia.

To wrap up his thoughts on the future of digital financial inclusion in Latin America, Board Member Peña also noted that the important thing moving forward is not more regulations but better regulations to support innovative financial services.

Pacific Islands Perspective

Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) Governor Denton Rarawa.
Central Bank of the Solomon Islands Governor Denton Rarawa shared lessons on the role of regulations and the impact that digital financial services are having within small island nations. In particular, he listed some of the key regulatory approaches that have been crucial to support digital financial services across the region:

  • The importance of an “Open Door Policy” that allows for a continuous close dialogue with the private sector in developing policies and regulations;
  • Implementing a “Test and Learn” or “Test and Follow” approach to new innovative financial services;
  • Instituting simplified tiered KYC regulations;
  • Promoting and supporting financial education and client awareness initiatives;
  • Collaborating and sharing with other regulators in similar environments.

In particular, he highlighted how the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative provided useful support to other central banks in terms of sharing new regulatory practices and approaches to better enable digital financial inclusion.

Looking forward, Governor Rarawa pointed out that to continue to support digital financial inclusion regulators need to look at:

  • Methods to further encourage digital financial service providers to take an applied product innovation approach to design more value added digital financial service products that suit customers needs;
  • Ensure that appropriate consumer protection issues are addressed, especially for new clients entering the financial services market via the digital platform;
  • Continue to support financial education and client awareness of the responsible use of new digital financial service options.

During both the forum and working group meeting, it was agreed that innovation is changing rapidly and regulators need to find a balance to both support new innovations as well as to ensure legal certainty for the private sector. Mr. Peña highlighted in his closing comments that it is the private sector, not the regulators who are closest to the market, “We do not have all the answers and we have to provide the rules for all the players but at the same time, we have to allow for innovation.”He stressed, however, that there is need for regulators to spend time in understanding the risks associated with new technologies. Financial inclusion is a huge challenge and it does require that regulators to both balance innovation with financial stability as well as to ensure consumer protection. At the same time, the regulators need to embrace new technologies and innovations and this can only be accomplished through public private sector dialogues.

Arjuna Costa, from the Omidyar Network, urged both regulators and the private sector to ensure “we come back to the importance of understanding how technology can be used to better service and meet the needs of clients, especially the poor.”

Read the full blog post here:

http://blogs.afi-global.org/2014/10/30/digital-financial-services-where-are-we-headed/

Related:

Unlocking the potential of Africa

How to manage all your financial affairs from a $20 mobile phone

Highlights on the Mobile Financial Services Landscape in Tanzania and Lessons for Regulators

 

Alliance for Financial Inclusion Blogs

John Owens

Participants take part in the "Digital Financial Services: Where are we Headed?" panel at the 2014 GPF in Trinidad and Tobago. Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u, center, takes part in the “Digital Financial Services: Where are we Headed?” panel at the 2014 GPF in Trinidad and Tobago.

The 2014 Global Policy Forum (GPF) and the Digital Financial Services Working Group meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago in September gave many policymakers the opportunity to share various digital financial inclusion trends from several regions around the globe.

African Perspective

Africa continues to innovate in the area of digital financial inclusion, primarily via mobile-enabled electronic money services. Digital financial services have continued to dramatically expand both access as well as the range of options to further support not only for financial inclusion but economic growth opportunities as well. In addition to e-money being utilized as a money transfer service, it is now being used as the rails to increase access to a broader variety of financial services, from banking…

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Congratulations to Easypaisa on its 5th year Anniversary!

Easypaisa celebrates 5 years in Pakistan!
Easypaisa

 

 

On 15th of October 2009, Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Micro Finance Bank partnered to launch Easypaisa – Pakistan’s first Mobile Financial Service. There were only 5,000 ATMs and 10,000 Bank branches in the entire country. Only an estimated 15-20 million of the total 100 million plus adult population had bank accounts. The rest of the under-banked/unbanked people in the country typically resorted to informal services like Hundi/Hawala for Remittances, or borrowing from family/friends for loans or savings.

5 years later, Easypaisa has crossed many important milestones and has a string of achievements behind it. With 50,000+ Easypaisa shops operating across 800 cities in Pakistan, Easypaisa is easily the largest financial service in the country in terms of touch-points. There are an estimated 6 million unique people who use Easypaisa services every month and there are 2.8 million customers who have subscribed to Easypaisa Mobile Accounts and availing the convenience of carrying out their financial services from their Mobile Phones, anywhere, any time. Nearly 400,000 transactions take place on Easypaisa every day and in 2013, Easypaisa moved 1% of Pakistan’s GDP.

In 2012, Easypaisa was declared as the 3rd biggest Mobile Financial Service in the world by CGAP, a unit within the World Bank and in February 2014, amongst more than 200 mobile money services across the world, Easypaisa won the prestigious GSMA Award for the ‘Best Mobile Money Service’ in the world at the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain. Easypaisa has the largest product portfolio of services for its customers including remittances, payments, savings and insurance and offers ATM cards and IBFT services that work with all banks connected through 1-Link in Pakistan. For more information, please visit: www.easypaisa.com.pk

Easypaisa celebrates 5 years in Pakistan

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