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Lessons From The Journey Toward Digital Money


Truly worthwhile destinations almost always require a significant journey.  The widespread use of digital money is no exception.  This post describes recent research published on the journeys which 90 countries are taking toward digital money and shares the key lessons learned.

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, “The Slow, Steady March Towards Digital Money” summarizes the 3rd annual Digital Money Symposium from Citi and Imperial College in London which explored the state of digital money adoption around the world.  Their 2015 Digital Money Readiness Index was analyzed along with the findings from their new research report entitled, “Digital Money:  A Pathway to an Experience Economy.”

Beyond the "why" a country should evolve toward greater usage of digital money, which was the primary focus of last year's report, their 2015 report focuses on the "how" and "when."  There are three main lessons which should guide industry investment:

  1. One size does not fit all.

It is impossible to attempt to replicate a successful approach from one country to another.  Taking into consideration a country’s specific cultural and contextual differences are critically important to create successful digital money implementations.

    2. Businesses and governments must tailor their approach to the readiness stage of the end-market.

Consumers go through a progressive hierarchy of first addressing core needs, then seek more value, then expect tailored and personalized experiences.  That said, some market segments may be at different readiness states.  Businesses and governments need to assess the specific country’s state of end-market readiness and tailor specific solutions to these markets.

    3. Partnerships are critical. 

Specific industries, such as financial services, telecom, retail, and public sector, can offer different advantages at different stages of digital money adoption.  Successful implementations typically entail the creation of an ecosystem which leverages the various advantages of these different industry partners.


Although the desire to replicate success is understandable, it is evident this approach will lead to sub-optimal digital money implementations.  And while the solution appears simple:  match the business model and product strategy to the specific needs of each country; the realities are MUCH MORE complex.

That said, the 2015 Citi Imperial College Digital Money report concludes with these words of opportunity:

“Disproportionate gains await those who are able to seize the opportunity—and the time is right.”


In closing, these three lessons all point to the critical importance of selecting a flexible and adaptable digital money technology platform which enables multiple issuers, multiple acquirers, multiple Mobile Network Operators, multiple mobile phones, multiple user interfaces, etc.  This will enable the creation of an optimized digital money solution today for the specific needs and situations within a given country, and the flexibility to evolve in the future.

With change being the one constant along any journey, digital money implementations will no doubt need to change.  As Charles Darwin said long ago about biological species, which is also true for digital money platforms today:

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one most adaptable to change.”

Let us know what you think.


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