As I discussed in a
recent blog, new payments technologies and platforms are fast taking off in Asia Pacific. Previously, I looked at how developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand are at the forefront of mobile platform development – but it’s not just the advanced
economies that are driving mobile uptake in the region.
Due to their low cost, and the increasingly widespread reach of mobile networks, mobile phones have become a rapidly growing banking tool in emerging markets. Rural populations in less advanced countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines have leapfrogged
the traditional regional branch-based step of banking and moved directly from a cash-based financial system to using high-technology solutions.
According to analyst house Gartner, the number of mobile payment users in APAC continues to grow rapidly, moving from 42 million in 2009 to 63 million in 2010 – resulting in the region accounting for
58% of global mobile payments users.
This banking platform expansion brings with it a raft of new opportunities for banks looking to offer micropayments solutions, especially when it comes to workers’ remittances. Currently, remittances are passed through key corridors of countries, most often
via costly wire transfer agencies. While many banks have operations in these corridor countries, these are often siloed, and so transferring money through them is not possible. Institutions in this situation would do well to implement a single payments solution,
consolidate their individual regional operations and tap into the growing remittance market.
It’s also important to keep the relativity of speed in mind. In order to create a competitive offering, banks would not actually need to offer instant payments. Offering a relatively low-cost mobile solution that processes transfers in, say, a day would
be so much more convenient for those who currently have to travel miles just to collect a payment, and make a massive different to their life.
Whatever institutions decide to do, the number of emigrants demanding international payments solutions in APAC will continue to grow. According to the World Bank, while global remittance volumes overall dropped significantly since 2008, those in Asia Pacific
actually grew during the financial crisis, and are predicted to move from $173 billion in 2010 to $191 billion in 2012. At the same time, payments volumes across the region are exploding – India alone predicts a rise in high value RTGS payments from 700,000
to 5 million a day over the next decade. All of this means that some banks have been caught unawares, and are having to look at upgrading their legacy systems to manage this explosion in volume.
As much as I’ve talked about the cutting edge technologies growing in Asia, slower paper-based processes are still in place, and banks still are required to support legacy instruments such as cheques. The challenge for both banks at this stage is to update
systems in such a way that enables them to deal with both existing paper-based processes and new, ever-growing, payments channels.