When Will Mobile Money Take Off in Europe?


Herwig Stockl

Head of Design & Deployment, Service Area M-Commerce , Ericsson

JANUARY 17,2013


At the end of last year, I was in Rwanda to visit our deployment team on the ground. This visit was an excellent opportunity for me to see a country where mobile money was successfully established.

Even more exciting, and something that stayed with me after I departed, was the conversation I had with the woman seated next to me on my return flight. She was a young Ugandan woman who asked me why I would travel all the way to Rwanda and Uganda to discuss m-commerce when they already have mobile wallets. She also asked why I did not go to Switzerland, her destination, because they also need mobile wallets. I thought a while and realized there were simple answers.

The system for the wallet that we provide has been trusted by successful pioneers in Africa that already have established business, where revenue is already coming in. Why? Because we can combine innovative new features that allow innovative and convenient consumer services and we deliver it with quality, reliability and operational efficiency. But for greenfields like in Europe, we still need to prove the business case first, even though my conversation on the plane shows there is a demand for mobile wallets in these markets.

So the key question remains — when will mobile money take off in Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Germany, Spain, etc.? These developed, highly banked European countries are obviously not there yet. But what will we need to make it fly?

Is it convenience? As the father of a teenage girl, I like the idea of transferring money to her in real-time. If she is in town with her friends with limited cash and they decide on the spot to watch a movie at the cinema, I would be just a call away to upload money to her mobile wallet.

Is it cost? If you get better exchange rates compared to banks and money transfer organizations, of course you would consider trying mobile money.

Is it legislation? If the laws force you to use a mobile wallet for some services, obviously you don’t have a choice. But at the moment I see this as the unlikely scenario.

Today, I don’t know what will make mobile money take off in these countries, but I see two possibilities. Either it is a very country specific evolution and the take off will be slow, or somebody identifies “THE NEED” we don’t see today. Mark Zuckerberg identified “THE NEED” for social media, and tell me who can stay away from Facebook today? And who believed seven years ago that Facebook would have as many users as it does today?

I see a day in the future where, like social media, we will look back and wonder how we lived without mobile wallets.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation at Ericsson's  blog.

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