Mobile money is here to stay. I’ve been following the development of mobile money in Jamaica for years. From the ideas floated around regarding its development, to the eventual draft guidelines from the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), and the final guidelines which were released in February 2013 after taking into consideration feedback from stakeholders. You can view the guidelines here.
What is Mobile Money?
The value of mobile money isn’t immediately obvious to most. In fact, I’ve found that most people generally have a hard time wrapping their head around the concept, but follow me. I want you to think about how you pay for goods and services now, say, your meal at lunch time or anything else you’d buy in a store. You’re either going to pay by cash, debit or credit card. As it is, most Jamaicans pay with cash. Mobile money, as it is called, allows you to make and receive payments through your mobile telephone without needing a bank account. Fancy!
To deposit or withdraw money from your mobile money account you are required to go to an access point. A number of companies, both local and foreign, are interested in and will eventually roll out their own mobile money solutions in Jamaica. The first to hit the Jamaican market was Conec, but for various reasons they have not been able to penetrate the market. In some regard, one of the major challenges that Conec has faced has been too few access points. Currently, the only access points that Conec has are Paymaster and credit union locations.
The second challenge that they face is in regards to merchants accepting Conec. As it stands only about 12 locations islandwide accept Conec Mobile wallet as a form of payment, clearly not enough. I should note that merchants that allow you to shop also allow you to withdraw or deposit your money, i.e. they act as Conec access points.
After being around for more than a year, I would have expected Conec to have expanded to more locations, but alas.
The third problem that Conec faces is what is required to use their service. Not only do you need a smart phone, you also need a data plan. So there’s no way to use their mobile money solution without downloading their Android or iOS app. This is of course is not ideal if they want mass adoption.
National Commercial Bank (NCB), Jamaica’s largest commercial bank, recently rolled out their own mobile money solution in partnership with Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS). The service is called Quisk, and of all the solutions I’ve seen, I’m most optimistic about its ability to penetrate the Jamaican market. Quisk’s mobile solution is however not exclusive to NCB, and other banks will be partnering with AIS to roll out Quisk in the near future.
For me, the two biggest things needed for mass adoption of mobile money in Jamaica are convenient access points to deposit and withdraw money, and merchants/business places that will accept Quisk as a form of payment. NCB has both. Through their branch locations (for withdrawals and deposits), but more importantly through their 280 ABMs and 19,962 point of sale terminals islandwide. Quisk works with existing bank infrastructure, that means you’ll be able to go into an NCB ABM at some point in the near future to deposit and withdraw cash from your Quisk account. You’ll also be able to go to a store with an NCB point of sale terminal and easily make a purchase or withdrawal (at authorized locations).
Person to person (P2P) transfers through Quisk can easily be done via SMS text messaging. It’s as simple as somebody typing SEND <your phone number> <the amount> to a Quisk number. Once you type that and hit send you’ll receive a call from Quisk. At that point you’ll be prompted to enter your Quisk pin number and the pound (#) key. One that has been entered, Quisk will notify the person that you are sending the money to via sms/text message. Quisk will also give you a code for the person receiving the money. All the recipient will need to do to accept the money is type GET <the code you gave them> and that’s it, the money is now available to them. At that point they can either withdraw the money or use it to make a payment (at some point through Quisk itself, e.g a bill payment).
NCB launched Quisk a few days ago, so it’s early days yet. So far they have about 20 merchants/businesses that accept Quisk
How to Sign Up
Acquiring a mobile money account is extremely easy. All you need to do is fill out a simple form, go to one of the NCB branches listed with your TRN and an ID and you’re good to go. Compare that process to opening a regular savings account, where you’d need two forms of identification, proof of address and two reference letters. Crazy right?
You don’t need to have an account with NCB to sign up, but if you do you can actually ask them to connect it to your Quisk mobile money account. Doing so means that you can transfer money from your NCB account to your Quisk account. You unfortunately can’t transfer from your Quisk account to your NCB savings account.
Any mobile money solution that is successful in Jamaica will be extremely disruptive. It means that people will no longer need to stand in line to pay their utility bills, or any other bill for that matter. It means that you’ll be able to pay the taxi man through your phone.
It also opens the door in the future for internet companies to accept mobile money as a form of payment for their services. As I mentioned before, it’s still early days, but the possibilities are endless. NCB is well positioned to become the leading mobile money solutions provider in Jamaica. If not them, I suspect it’s going to be a tussle between Flow and Digicel who I know are both working on their own solutions. Interesting and exciting days ahead, may the best company win!