Physical cash and its byproducts such as plastic debit and credit cards will soon be usurped by safer and more efficient mobile and digital money services says Standard Bank director Herman Singh, 18 months on from the launch of the South African bank's virtual currency mimoney.
A product of Standard bank's innovation unit, mimoney consists of a voucher number delivered to the recipient's cell phone via SMS. This digitised cash is legal tender, and represents a more formal unit than the grassroots airtime bartering economy from which it sprung. Making the leap into the physical realm, the bank has also created 'mowaly', a mobile wallet in which dematerialised cash can be stored and used as a vehicle for making payments.
Mimoney vouchers are available in any denomination for amounts of up to R1000 per transaction with a daily spending limit of R5000 and a R25,000 monthly limit. There are no bank charges for the sender or receiver of the money - and vouchers can be issued from as little as a single cent.
And unlike alternative cash substitutes, mimoney is agnostic of channel, age, bank, phone, sim, banked or un-banked.
Says Standard Bank's Singh: "By de-materialising cash, we have made it much easier to store and use anytime and anywhere, safer and a lot more environmentally friendly."
Currently, 14 leading online and offline retail merchants are linked to mimoney, but this number is expected to grow significantly as consumers become more comfortable with the concept.
Says Singh: "Cash as we know it is clunky, easy to steal, not always available, dangerous and expensive to move, and difficult and time-consuming to exchange."
He believes that changing patterns of behaviour will lead to the rapid adoption of digital cash over the next few years as paper money and cards lose their relevance, functionality and appeal.
"We have adopted a Google approach to the challenge of taking digitised money mainstream, by creating a radical business model that is user friendly and largely free," explains Singh.