There has been a 55% surge in the global use of mobile financial services in the last year, with emerging markets, notably China, driving the growth, according to a survey from TNS.
The poll of 34,000 mobile users in 43 countries reveals that markets such as China, Brazil and Kenya have seen the number of new mobile money users soar over 100% in 12 months while developed nations such as the US and UK are also experiencing strong growth.
In China, 25% of those asked now use their handset for money matters, up from 10% in 2010. In Brazil there has been a rise from 10% to 21%, in the US 11% to 22% and the UK 10% to 20%.
Take-up of mobile wallets, where handsets are used to store money, has been more sedate, with adoption in the US moving from six per cent in 2010 to eight per cent. In Singapore the rise was from 10% to 13% and in Hong Kong it was 16% to 17%.
However in contrast, mobile wallet usage in Chile was below one per cent in 2010, but has risen to seven per cent this year - just one percentage point below the US and higher than Australia, France and the Netherlands.
The main global driver though it China, where the financial services that capture the highest interest are paying bills (25%), getting money out of the bank (15%) and receiving wages (15%).
This chimes with recent research from Celent, which predicted that China will soon be the largest mobile payments market in the world, with 410 million users by 2013.
James Fergusson, head, global technology sector, TNS, says: "The past few years have shown us the tremendous potential for emerging markets to 'leap-frog' more developed markets in adopting new technology. Our findings from this research suggest that the uptake of mobile banking services is set to follow this trend. In countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Emerging Asia where there is high mobile phone prevalence, the lack of robust financial services and a need for efficient payment methods has contributed to very strong appeal for mobile finance. It's a logical fit."
Banks, telcos, and IT vendors are all scrambling to take advantage of the potentially massive mobile money market. Yesterday Visa unveiled a digital wallet that will be available to customers in the US and Canada this autumn and highlighted partnerships it is cultivating in other, developing markets.