MasterCard has formed a joint venture with telco giant Telefónica to bring mobile phone-based financial services to 12 Latin American countries.
The new 50-50 JV company will be independently managed and tap both firms' existing banking relationships to bring services to customers of Telefónica's Movistar brand.
With an open model to ensure interoperability among the banked and unbanked segments, the venture will provide 87 million current and potential Movistar customers with m-payment services that will be linked to a mobile wallet or pre-paid account, including money transfers, mobile airtime reload, bill payment and retail purchases.
The partners claim their collaboration will promote financial inclusion for the millions of people in Latin America with difficult or no access to traditional banking systems.
They cite market research and customer surveys that show that mobile phones are perceived to be convenient and safe, and therefore, an appropriate tool for financial transactions, in the region. It is also estimated that by 2014 mobile financial transactions there will reach approximately $63 billion.
Richard Hartzell, president, Latin America and Caribbean, MasterCard, says: "MasterCard's commitment to foster financial inclusion across the globe makes the joint venture an exciting opportunity to provide accessible and affordable financial solutions to the millions of consumers in the Latin America region who have never been able to enjoy the benefits of electronic payments."
The value of mobile operations to traditional payment players such as MasterCard was highlighted recently by the firm's move to lure Mung Ki Woo from telco Orange to head up its initiatives in the field.