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Mobile Money Interoperability: Finally on the Horizon?

It used to be operators behind all the mobile money initiatives in developing markets. Then we started to see a shift, and banks stepped into the leading role. Read ‘til the end, and you’ll see there’s even one bit of news that seems to indicate, can it be… is that cooperation among operators and banks? Finally. And even better, talk of the long-awaited interoperability between different mobile money services that will really help them take off.

Dutch Bangla-Bank Limited (DBBL, one of our customers) in early 2012 launched a suite of award-winning mobile banking services in Bangladesh that seemed a harbinger of things to come. Shortly after, ONE Bank Limited, another SAP customer in Bangladesh, followed with an announcement about its intentions to offer mobile banking services of its own (which launched in September 2013). The country was ready for it: 160 million people, 45% with mobile phones, and only 13% with bank accounts.

Around the same time, two of Pakistan’s biggest banks and SAP customers, Allied Bank Limited (ABL) and Habib Bank Limited (HBL) announced they were getting into the game, too. Two of the country’s four operators already had mobile money services at that time (Telnor’s EasyPaisa and Mobilink’s Mobicash both launched in 2009). Like Bangladesh, Pakistan is one of the fastest developing mobile markets in the world, with over 125 million mobile users. HBL launched its branchless banking in November 2012. Here’s one of the ads that explains how it works. ABL followed a year later with its SMS banking services in November 2013. Here’s ABL’s ad.

Having banks in the mobile money mix hasn’t slowed down the operators. Upaisa, a branchless banking service supported by operator Ufone (also running on SAP), arrived on the scene this year as well, even winning a Mobile Money Global Award for Best Bank-Led Mobile Money Programme. Ufone has high hopes for the service, as the ad declares that Upaisa takes mobile money to the next level, and that soon everyone will be using it. And Zong launched its TimePey mobile banking last year.

Now, here’s the most interesting development, in my opinion. In May 2013, Indonesia’s top three mobile operators announced that they’d made their mobile wallet services interoperable, so customers of Indosat’s Dompetku, Telkomsel’s T-Cash, and XL Tunai can all send money to each other — for a small fee. Here’s a case study about it from GSMA. At the same time, Bank Indonesia announced a pilot for branchless banking in the country that five other banks will participate in: Bank Sinar Harapan, Bank Mandiri, Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN), CIMB Niaga, and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI). Both BTPN and CIMB Niaga are also SAP customers, so I can’t wait to see how this works out. I’m already looking forward to similar initiatives in other countries.

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