SBI will be facilitating a hands-on workshop on “Agent health: obtaining and using field data to maximise your agent network potential” at the Mobile Money Africa 2013 conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday, May 27, 2013. The following is a description of the workshop:
Motivated and effective agents are a key element of a successful mobile money service. If agent performance isn’t consistent over time or between locations, it can be very difficult to understand why – and even more difficult to rectify and ensure the situation doesn’t repeat itself in the future. With a large, geographically spread agent network that may be in very rural locations or managed by a third party, it can be a challenge to really understand what’s going on in the field and how that may be affecting agent transaction volumes.
SBI’s hands-on experience of working with our clients to implement agent networks has guided the development of a number of practical “agent health” approaches, aimed at keeping organizations in touch with what we call the key “agent CCM factors”: circumstance, capacity and motivation. Attendees of the workshop will be able to learn about practical real-world examples of the ways in which our clients monitor and improve their agent CCM; try a few things out for themselves; and share thoughts and ideas with our team on how to adapt these tools for their own environment.
To register for the conference, please click here.
Debbie Watkins, Head, Implementation for SBI’s Alternative Delivery Channels Practice, moderated a panel discussion on “Key Commercial Success Factors and Business Models for developing M-Money initiatives” at EBRD’s inaugural Mobile Money conference held in London on March 14, 2013.
EBRD – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – fosters transition to market economies in countries from central and eastern Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean. The conference was designed as a platform to discuss mobile money and raise awareness for the challenges and opportunities specific to the region. Experts from banks and mobile companies working in the region address topics including: potential business models, regulatory requirements and how to drive consumer adoption.
Results from an EBRD study on mobile money initiatives in the EBRD region were also presented for the first time, and highlighted variations in approaches and country demographics according to the following categories:
Emerging: countries with growing labor migration and a desire for global financial inclusion. They need m-finance in its most basic forms: domestic money transfers, m-wallets and m-remittances. Engaging post offices is a better way to reach rural societies in these countries; brick and mortar financial institutions won’t work as well. Continue reading
Photo credit: bKash
This post is written by Debbie Watkins, Head Implementation, Alternative Delivery Channels at SBI (Zeist/Washington), and reposted from Upsides.
Banks in emerging and developing countries are increasingly recognising the potential of the low-income market segment. However, setting up and running a bank branch is an expensive business. This is where branchless banking comes in. Read the first article in an insightful series of three on how banking beyond conventional branches creates financial inclusion for all.
Low-income and rural populations are often inherently ‘bankable’ – they save for a wide range of different purposes, source both short- and long-term credit for capital purchases and business building, and demonstrate (often very sophisticated) financial management skills. The fact that most of their financial interactions are with informal channels is due to a number of reasons: banks may be far away from their homes or workplaces; may not be open during the hours they are not working; or may have prohibitively high minimum balances or monthly fees.
Banks are increasingly recognising the potential of the low-income market segment. However, setting up and running a bank branch is an expensive business. The net cost to a bank of conducting a single over-the-counter transaction can be more than $1, and understandably banks are somewhat reluctant to have their branches full of clients conducting small transactions – the cost/benefit ratio just does not make sense. Establishing branches in rural areas also causes significant logistical problems – ensuring the branch always has sufficient cash on hand (but not too much), connecting the branch to centralised banking systems, and of course the fact that one branch covering what may be a catchment area of many square kilometres will still result in it being out of the logistical reach of a large number of people. Continue reading
This post is written by Meenu Mynam, Project Coordinator in Hyderabad for Shore International India.
Photo Credit: Darren Kaltved
Coming from a technology background and having spent time writing advanced code, my first visit to a remote, yet well maintained village near Suryapet in Andhra Pradesh (a southern state in India) was nothing short of a surprise. Having read about business correspondent (BC) model, seeing one in action provided good learning. However, numerous issues surrounding the BC model makes one wonder if the percentage of banked population in India, as claimed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and various other banks, is actually able to use the services and transact as intended.
The first BC we met was helping an old, illiterate woman transact. It was good to see an uneducated woman walk into the BC agent outlet, authenticate her identity, withdraw her money, and leave. She had never been to a bank and was extremely happy that the BC was providing her an opportunity to save and withdraw money whenever needed. On further interaction with the agent, we understood that there were close to 250 people who had enrolled with the agent, of which only 50-60 could transact. This problem seemed to be common with a number of agents we met, which hindered them from providing services to many customers.
In 2006, RBI, the central bank in India, permitted banks to use agents to facilitate transactions in rural India as part of its financial inclusion mandate. With 70% of the Indian population living in rural areas, many BC companies tried to set up agent networks covering most of these regions, but a large number of these agents are yet to be transaction enabled. There are also transaction enabled agents who have invested in equipment and are awaiting the activation of their customers’ accounts. The time lag is very high in some cases, impacting the motivation levels of the agent, who is usually drawn towards the BC model hoping to make some extra money and achieve the elevated status it offers in their community. Continue reading
This post is written by Lee Babcock, Managing Director, Mobile Strategy for ACDI/VOCA.
Photo credit: ACDI/VOCA
I work at the intersection of mobile banking and the rural poor. For nearly 50 years my organization, ACDI/VOCA, has created market linkages for smallholder farmers to reduce poverty and expand economic opportunities. The people we work with are not usually near a city and they have few resources, often making only a subsistence living off of their crops. But increasingly, they do have a mobile phone.
For a development practitioner, the proliferation of cell phones among the rural poor is a golden ticket, a new infrastructure directly into households at the base of the pyramid. Even beyond mobile finance, cellphones can provide solutions at every link along the agricultural value chain—e-vouchers, credit scoring, SMS broadcasts of weather and prices and much more—to help lift smallholders out of poverty.
The rural poor are a huge and untapped market. ACDI/VOCA’s research on mobile finance for agriculture and our mobile banking projects are helping build this rapidly emerging body of knowledge. In Indonesia, for example, we’ve brought together a commercial bank, input suppliers (e.g., seeds and fertilizer) and a large cocoa buyer to help cocoa farmers access high-quality inputs while mitigating credit risk for the bank. The bank distributes the loan to the input supplier so the farmer can buy inputs. At harvest, the farmer delivers cocoa to the large cocoa buyer, and when accounts are reconciled, the profit is electronically transferred to the mobile wallet account the farmer has with the bank. Continue reading
This post is written by Ali Gross, SBI Senior Business Analyst.
Photo Credit: data.gov.md
To encourage the development of more agent and branchless banking networks, donors and policymakers are emphasizing interoperability and institution-agnostic platforms, as opposed to a bank or MFI opting to roll out its own agent network. They often stress the importance of avoiding duplication of efforts and of promoting interoperability as a way to increase efficiency and scale as well as customer access and convenience.
However, despite these efforts, financial institutions want to develop their own agent networks in their efforts to implement alternative delivery channels. The financial institution rationalizes that this will result in increased control over profit and agent quality and lower risk of losing existing customers to the competition. Often, what financial institutions fail to account for is not only the amount of time, money and effort required to roll out an agent network, but also what is best for the customer. For instance, in the U.S., most customers would prefer access to an interoperable switch that allows a Wells Fargo client, for example, to withdraw from a Bank of America ATM. Would clients in emerging markets not prefer the ability to visit one agent that represents a variety of financial institutions resulting in greater flexibility and less confusion about which agents they can visit? As increasing client choice and convenience of accessing financial services becomes increasingly important, the question becomes, how can financial institutions begin to look at interoperability in a way that is mutually beneficial, rather than solely competitive? Continue reading
This post is written by Muhymin Chowdhury, the Deputy Project Manager for the bKash Mobile Money project in Bangladesh.
Photo credit: Raisa Chowdhury
On a recent work trip I had the opportunity to visit Chars Livelihood Programme (CLP) beneficiaries in the northern part of Bangladesh. ‘Chars’ are riverine islands created and destroyed by floods and erosion. These islands are located in very remote areas, requiring a minimum of twelve hours (via bus, car, motorbikes, boat and motorbikes again) to get to the nearest island from the capital city, Dhaka. The project beneficiaries receive a monthly stipend of Tk 350 (equivalent to $ 4.38), which is delivered to them in cash. In order to reduce the hassle of travel and carrying cash, CLP has started using bKash (a mobile financial services company) to transfer the stipend directly to their project beneficiaries. Our main motivation for the trip was to:
- Observe how the service is rolling out
- Understand whether people start using bKash for other purposes (e.g. savings, money, domestic money transfer)
- Identify spillover effects of the service to non-project beneficiaries. Continue reading
SBI Lunch and Learn on Jan 25, 2013
Last week, SBI hosted a “lunch and learn” in its DC office on “Effective Agent Networks” featuring SBI Agent Network Lead Gerald (Gerry) Rasugu. Gerry Rasugu currently leads the Agent Network Group within SBI’s global Alternative Delivery Channels practice. Gerry has a wealth of experience in the branchless banking arena, notably from the world acclaimed M-PESA where he pioneered set-up and management of the agent network in Kenya that drives the leading national m-money payment system in the world.
Gerry is also experienced in designing and building agent networks supporting financial inclusion in Uganda, Fiji Islands, India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Pakistan. In Bangladesh he supported the design and build of the bKash agent network, the leading mobile financial services initiative in the country, which is already showing great promise in its 2nd year of deployment, with over 20,000 active agents.
Gerry has worked globally with various partners including Vodafone, MTN, Orange Telecom, GSMA and other various financial institutions. He has strong experience in Sales and Distribution across East Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. He has interacted with various regulatory bodies to help formulate relevant policies for mobile financial services. Gerry has also recently published an agent training document specifically targeting financial services agents.
To watch and listen to Gerry’s presentation, please click here.
This post is written by Afsheen Shakoor, SBI-Pakistan Resident Advisor for an MFI branchless banking project. This post also appears on SBI’s blog.
Photo credit: ASASAH
It’s one of the greatest requests and laments of Pakistan’s microfinance clients. In surveys and informal interviews, clients say they want closer offices and quicker meetings. In this environment, little wonder that microfinance institutions (MFIs) are experimenting with mobile banking. But is mobile banking really the answer to clients’ prayers?
With mobile banking, instead of going to a branch office to make repayments, clients pay through designated agents of the partner bank or MFI. These agents may be local shopkeepers, pharmacists, or mobile retailers, and are ideally closer to the client than the MFI branch.
But in the case of Pakistan, agents haven’t been closer to the clients. Instead, they’ve clustered near the MFI and bank branches. So the gains in terms of speed and convenience have been modest, averaging as little as ten rupees. Continue reading
This post is written by Jesse Fripp, SBI Vice President.
In October 2012, at a gala event in New York City, the Better Than Cash Alliance was officially launched. With a stated objective to “make the transition from cash to digital payments to achieve the shared goals of empowering people and growing emerging economies,” BTCA represents an important step forward in developing a unified industry voice for the effective deployment of new disruptive technologies. A major emphasis of the initiative is on expanding the universe of government and donor to person cash transfer programs (government to person, or G2P) as a means to enhance efficiencies, increase transparency, and ensure security and minimization of “leakage” through the use of new delivery channel technologies. While the emphasis of the BTCA’s efforts are on policy-makers and the macroeconomic advantages of a “cash lite” society, a big question still remains: is cash lite really “better than cash” for consumers?
In “The Journey Toward Cash Lite” a white paper developed by Bankable Frontier Associates for BTCA, the authors helpfully break down both the opportunity and challenge of achieving a cash lite economy for multiple groups of economic actors – government, donors, businesses, and individuals. However, there are two key areas of the conversation that merit more focused consideration – namely, the assumption that increased use of e-payments equates to financial sector “deepening” and the pivotal place assigned to the issue of “trust” as the major barrier to consumer uptake at scale. Continue reading