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The genie in the smartphone ...

During my previous trip to Hong Kong I spoke of the enthusiasm for mobile financial services in that part of the world and this, in my mind, has been reaffirmed while at the GSMA Mobile Money Summit in Singapore this week. The conference has been packed full of examples of truly innovative and impressive forays into mobile banking and payments. Interestingly, there have been as many telecom companies here as banks, highlighting their drive into the mobile money market and recognition of how it serves their business models.

 

Another development that I have mentioned before and worth noting again is the potential to facilitate mobile banking to the lesser developed economies in the East and reach far more of the unbanked population via the mobile channel. An example of this is the Docomo Money Transfer in the Philippines which will connect with the SMART Money eWallet operated by local carrier Smart Communications. However, it has been intriguing to see just as many providers offering tailored and sophisticated mobile financial services to the growing community of high net worth individuals and fashion conscious in this region. It is hard to go anywhere in Singapore without seeing somebody with an iPhone and, as a result, this market is being exploited to its fullest with industry players looking to capitalise on the popularity of this handset and other smartphones.

 

Asia is clearly a continent diverse in geographies and people and this is being reflected in the wide range of mobile financial services being made available. However, while there are those targeting the unbanked and then those at the other end of the spectrum catering for the tech-savvy and wealthy elite, there is not much on offer for those consumers who fall in-between. This suggests that there still may be a gap in the Asian market that has not been filled.

 

What this global conference has highlighted most for me though is that Europe is lagging considerably behind its Asian counterparts. Many of the presentations outlining best practice and success stories in mobile money at the event referenced Asian projects, with a notable lack of representation from European companies. That is not to say that Europeans are not thinking about mobile banking and payments but where they are still contemplating it, the Asians are actually coming up with the ideas and following them through. With such a difference in terms of creativity, energy, vision and enthusiasm for mobile financial services in Asia, my parting thought from the conference was whether I could bottle all of this up and bring it back to our shores. All it will need then is somebody fortunate enough to let the genie out of the lamp.

 

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