Thursday, June 28, 2012

Microbank: K1m in mobile dealings

MORE than K1 million worth of transactions involving 20,000 people were carried out through Nationwide Microbank’s mobile phone banking technology since its introduction last November, starting in West New Britain province,
The grassroots-focused microbank is using cutting edge technology to bring banking services to the most-remote areas of Papua New Guinea, according to managing director Tony Westaway.
At the forefront of this is SmartPhone technology to open new MiCash mobile phone accounts, he told The National.

MiCash account opening agent in West New Britain.-Picture courtesy of NATIONWIDE MICROBANK
“We’ve got about a million kina’s worth of transactions,” Westaway said.
“We’ve got more than 20,000 mobile money MiCash wallets.
“We’ve got 24 agents, plus we’ve got our branch network.
“Our product is a mobile wallet and a bank account.
“It’s quite an innovative product.
“The bank account is sitting on a mobile phone
“We piloted Mobile Money in West New Britain in November last year.
“Our future is with mobile money and using people to help people in the villages and in the plantations.
“We send MiCash embassadors into the villages with SmartPhones, takes pictures of the customers and record their fingerprints or their mark, and the information is uploaded to our head office to open an account in six or seven minutes.
“It’s quite innovative.
“Cell phone technology has allowed us to reach out to the people, which has never been done so before.”
Westaway said internet banking was limited to those tech-savvy people with computers, while 85% of the people involved in the informal sector, had access to mobile phones.
“They certainly all have mobile phones,” he said.
“This has really been bringing the people into the first world.
“A lot of the technology used in PNG is cutting edge.
"It’s designed to overcome the geography of the place and these sorts of challenges.
“A lot of what we (Nationwide Microbank) do here is cutting edge and you won’t see it in the developed world.”
Westaway said there was a great, untapped market out in rural PNG for Nationwide Microbank.
“We don’t see any competition from commercial banks,” he said.
“There’s an opportunity here for financial institutions to assist the grassroots people.
“I don’t think any one organisation, including commercial banks, of that market.
“That’s our target market segment, on the bottom end of the pyramid.
“We don’t have corporate banking or commercial banking.”
Westaway said Mobile Money was a very unique product of Nationwide Microbank.
“We see a lot of opportunity here, particularly for the grassroots people, and particularly, for women.
“One of the interesting aspects of this money product is that it provides confidentiality and independence for women.
“We want to make a difference here.
“We started off with 25% of our accounts held by women, we’ve now lifted that to 34%.
“I think it’s growing, not only because of financial literacy, but because of our Mobile Money product called MiCash.
“It means that they can carry their mobiles around and nobody knows that they’re carrying their bank account.”

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