Jamaica: NCB moves first on mobile money

Jamaica Observer

January 21, 2013


Bank gets nod to pursue partnership with DBJ on pilot this month.

NATIONAL Commercial Bank was given the regulatory nod to go ahead with Jamaica's first mobile money project, last month.

The pilot, which launched this month, aims to disburse Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) funds through micro-finance lenders using SMS text messaging technology and automated banking machines (ABMs).

The idea centres on enabling customers of micro-finance institutions to withdraw funds from any ABM upon getting loan approval and receiving a text message over a secured network.It also should result in lower cost to administer DBJ loan disbursements.

The partnership with DBJ was actually given approval by the finance ministry as far back as April, according to Sheree Martin, general manager of customer experience and innovation at the NCB Group.

But the commercial bank is governed by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), which when approached with news of the partnership requested clarification on a number of issues, including those related to know your client (KYC) rules and security.

Now that the central bank has given the go-ahead, NCB and DBJ have started to work on integrating their systems under the first phase of the pilot project.

The next phase will be disbursements.

"Mobile money is a big deal, the fact that the BOJ is working to have the service here is one example of NCB's innovation in progress," the head of customer experience and innovation said.

"The marrying of innovation and customer service makes a lot of sense," according to Martin. "It will make our customers more loyal and more confident."

A major touch point for its clients is its customer care centre.

NCB consolidated its support area with its information technology and customer care units now being housed at Trafalgar Road.

"This is a part of being lean and efficient," said Martin.

At the new location (across from NCB's Atrium headquarters on Trafalgar Road), which became operational this month, the group will employ strategies to ensure that the customers benefit from its products and services, she said.

"Customers are demanding certain services," said the innovation manager. "There are some who don't know what they want, and that's where we come in."

International banks have invested and looked at how they can apply the latest trends for financial services.

"NCB will conduct research and examine what can work in the local marketplace," she said. "We are trying to increase shareholder value."

The company also has its tentacles outside of the financial sector and has examined telecommunications to add to its products and services.

"It's really looking at the landscape of what is happening overseas, thinking through to see how it can be applied," said Martin. "Some of them will be transformation initiatives," said Martin.

The group has already conducted tests on consumer adoption and the type of efficiency it will bring to the business.

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