What Makes Mobile Money Tick?

Christophe Erny, Vice President, Market Unit, Mahindra Comviva

Mobile money has played (and continues to) a key role in deepening financial inclusion. According to data on global financial inclusion released by The World Bank Group, mobile money services are available in 85 per cent of countries where the number of customers with an account at a financial institution is less than 20 per cent. There is a catch, though-while these numbers are, without a doubt, quite impressive, the penetration level varies (sometimes drastically) across regions.

To illustrate, according to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report 2015 on mobile money, mobile money is available in 82 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the other end of the spectrum, a mere 30 per cent of Europe and Central Asia uses the facility. Quite a difference, this!
Now, the question is-what is the secret sauce to making a mobile money facility successful? Indeed, what differentiates the successful from the not so successful services? It’s quite straightforward; really-an optimal user experience.
Here’s how-it is well-known that today’s customer expects an “always-on”, multi-channel experience. Ideally, mobile money services ought to be always available, consistent and easy to access and use. Naturally, then, mobile money providers ought to begin focusing on what makes customers tick. It comes as no surprise, then, that enhancing customer experience is the obvious answer.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg, though. Operators can still cover a substantial amount of ground across several areas. Some initiatives that can help to enhance user experience are discussed below:
Enhancing the mobile money user experience via mobile applications
As per data released by Statista, in 2015, over 25 per cent of the global population used a smartphone. By 2020, this number is expected to increase to 37 per cent. As these devices become increasingly ubiquitous, so do the applications they support. Operators, thus, ought to focus on offering mobile money applications that reduce the time taken to execute a transaction, while obviously offering cutting-edge customer experience.
Here’s an interesting example-according to the GSMA, in Mexico, Telcel’s Transfer application permits a customer to generate a barcode for merchant payments. This is then scanned by a cashier’s barcode scanner or through the application itself for person-to-person transfers. This facilitates easier interactions with third parties, while not disclosing the customer’s mobile number. Innovation is clearly the key to success in mobile money!
Ensuring seamless online payments
Now, this area is tricky to navigate. This is simply because even today, using mobile money isn’t the most pleasant or easy experience. In other words, mobile money has to cover a lot of ground, especially with regard to making a customer’s online experience a seamless one.
A possible method (in my opinion) to simplify this process is using the MasterCard Virtual Card. This is a prepaid service linked to the existing balance in a customer’s Mobile Money Account. The card enables customers to execute online payments at any website that accepts MasterCard. The card is virtual as the customer requests for the same via the USSD channel and receives the card’s details (the virtual card number, CVV number and expiry date) in an SMS. It is not physically present.
Net, net, the point is that operators ought to realize that customer experience can make or break their business. This is especially true, in regions where mobile money is sought after, but doesn’t really take off. Enhancing the customer’s experience is one way of making the cash registers ring. Operators, are you listening?

About the Author
Christophe Erny, Vice President, Market Unit, Mahindra Comviva
Christophe Erny is an accomplished executive with broad international experience in innovation, strategy, business development and P&L growth.
Decisive leader and successful executor in corporate and incubator environments creating multi-million dollar telecommunications, technology and payments businesses, he successfully delivered strategic growth, business development and operational improvements with exceptional P&L ownership skills.
Christophe is well versed in identifying and leading both organic and inorganic growth opportunities and in developing, managing and marketing new ventures in disruptive and rapidly developing markets, conceptually and geographically.
Prior to joining Mahindra Comviva in 2015, Christophe has held several executive positions in his 17+ years of experience, working within a wide portfolio of international companies – large organizations such as IDT, Gateway Communications to smaller start-ups.