Gordon Swaby

NCB’s Quisk and the future of mobile money in Jamaica

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.

Enter Quisk

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!

Sirius Satellite Radio in Jamaica: A guide

Jamaican radio is great ok, but sometimes a little diversity is good.  For those who need that diversity the answer is SiriusXM Satellite Radio 

What is Sirius ?

This is how they describe it:

Welcome to commercial-free music from every genre, live play-by-play sports, the biggest news and talk, and the hottest entertainment at your fingertips, 24/7. Welcome to an All Access package that lets you listen to all of it everywhere — in your car, at home or the office on your computer, or on your smartphone and tablet.

Screenshot 2014-08-13 19.36.42

I’ve always wanted Sirius in my vehicle, but didn’t fully explore how to do it until recently. I couldn’t find any information online regarding getting it done in Jamaica so I had to quiz a friend of mine who had it, hence this guide.


Step 1: Don’t make the mistake I did, I purchased the wrong device initially 🙁  Sirius comes in different flavors, I got the cheapest one. It’s called the SiriusXM Satellite Radio SSV7V1 Stratus 7 Satellite Radio . You can find it here,on Amazon for about $50 US.  So, theoretically only people living the in USA are supposed to have Sirius, but hey, it works here, so I can’t complain. I made the mistake and purchased this, it’s IMPORTANT that the device has “Sirius” labelled on it. The reason? Sirius and XM, even though they’re the same companies (one bought the other) use different satellites, the latter doesn’t work in Jamaica

Step 2: When you finally have the device in hand, you will need to install it in your vehicle. I couldn’t do it, so I used Auto Traders Jamaica located on Old Hope Road. Of course if you’re savvy enough, you can DIY.

Step 3: The last step, this part gave me some issues. You’ll need to contact Sirius and ask them to send a signal to your radio to activate. Their contact number is a toll free number so you can’t call them from your Jamaican phone, therefore you’ll need to use a VOIP app like Skype, Google Hangouts, Viber or any similar app. You can also visit their website from your phone and ask them to activate via chat. Please note, the radio will need to be on for them to activate  They have different subscription options, you can find them here. I am currently on their Sirius All Access package for $18.99 per month + tax. Their other options are: Sirius Select,  Sirius  Mostly Music, [ Sirius News, Sports & Talk, Sirius Family-Friendly, SiriusXM All-in-One and Sirius A La Carte – These are hidden at the bottom of their page — sneaky bastards ]. Your Scotiabank Visa Debit card or any local dual currency visa or mastercard will work fine. You will however need to use a US address ( I used my shipme address).




My favorite stations (so far):

  • Howard Stern (101)
  • CNN (115)
  • BBC (118)
  • Wharton Business Radio (111)
  • Joint (Reggae music) (042)
  • Pulse
  • BPM

I hope this helps, if you need any help leave a comment and I’ll try my best.

P.S You can subscribe and listen to Sirius without having the radio in your vehicle. The alternative is listening to it on your phone, tablet or on your computer.


Goal Setting

I achieve because I set goals. Prior to writing this post I was reading up on setting goals and I came across this really cool acronym; S.M.A.R.T, it stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted. Setting goals is something I strongly believe in and place emphasis on. I’m really good at setting goals for myself in business, but it never crossed my mind that I could use the same principles I use in business and apply it to my personal life…until recently. Obvious yes, but oblivious to me. Call it my “aha moment”.

I have been training for Sigma Corporate run, but it has been extremely difficult for me to get myself into the habit of getting up and running each morning. I knew what the ultimate goal is. The ultimate goal is being fit enough to complete the 5k race, but that was a huge goal with no milestones on the way there, I wasn’t motivated and the task seemed insurmountable. It’s easy to say you want to be rich, do a 5K race, do well in school etc, but if you don’t set specific goals it’s going to be extremely hard for you to accomplish anything.

For my 5K race:

specific: I know I wanted to run non-stop from point A to point B. I wasn’t concerned about my speed ( that’s another goal), but getting from point a to b was the first specific goal. Achieve one, move on to the other. Simple.

measurable: Via the nike+ running app

achievable: Broken down into small specific chunks. Be realistic.Not setting myself  up for disappointment.

time-targeted: The race is on February 17, 2013.  I have 15 days to prepare and I know what I want to accomplish and by when which will prepare me for the big day.

These are principles that you can apply to anything. Work, relationships, exercising etc.

Setting goals is giving yourself direction.

Why real entrepreneurship is hard 

Entrepreneurship is hard, no, real entrepreneurship is hard, I say real because many young people call themselves entrepreneurs, but they really don’t know the half of it.

For the last year and a half I’ve been working on launching my company, EduFocal Limited. That dream became a reality on March 15th, 2012 when we finally launched at the Jamaica Pegasus. I’ve smiled, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, but most importantly I’ve learned life lessons.

I’ll be doing some guest posts regularly at virgin.com. I write about life and my experiences as a young entrepreneur. This is my first post there. Feedback is great, let me know if you liked it or it sucked. 🙂

iPad Online Games

With the massive popularity of the Apple iPad more and more people are using them for
entertainment at their fingertips. All you need is a WiFi connection and you’re on line
surfing the web for your favorite past times. Online gaming is huge on the personal computer
and now it’s even easier to go to your favorite game sites including online roulette and online poker games, using your iPad.

When you visit a there are a wealth of games to choose from. Some favorites include texas hold em poker, slot
machines, horse racing and blackjack. Best of all, if you are new to iPad gaming, the rules are
available and easy to understand.

You can play for real money at a casino online on the iPad. Simply find your WiFi
connection, choose your favorite games, and add credits and play! You can try the games with
demonstration credits before you wager your own money so you can experience the games
with no initial detriment to your wallet. The option of playing for fun or for money, opens the
gaming to a wider range of people.

Online gaming has truly found its niche with the iPad do to its portability, powerful graphics
and accessibility. The clear casino sounds along with the sharp images make the experience
that much more enjoyable. If you need a little escape from your day just spin the roulette
wheel a few times or play a few hands of blackjack.

Whether you’ve been to Las Vegas, a local casino or played online casino games on a
personal computer, the gaming experience on the iPad can be just as exciting. Wherever you
are or whatever your doing there’s always a minute or two for a quick game. Just download
the applications from iTunes and you’ll be on your way to loads of fun. Good luck and happy

One Less Thing to Worry About: Address Book Harmony

Far too often I hear people complain about losing their mobile phone contacts. Gone are the days of copying numbers to your sim card or re-adding them one by one when your changing phones.

Google Sync

I’ve been using Google Sync for about 2 years and it’s definitely a life saver. It’s useful, easy to setup and it’s supported on a ton of devices ( Blackberry, iPhone, Android etc). Not only is it good for backing up your contacts and keeping them in sync across devices, it’s also good for calendar synchronization. Google Sync provides over-the-air synchronization so you never have to plug anything into your computer.


I use two mobile phones; (Oh, How I hate walking around with two devices) an iPhone and a Blackberry. Both have different address books. Depending on who I’m calling I prefer to use one over the other. It’s never an issue trying to remember which one of the phones I added the person on because both my address books are in Sync. So let’s say I added John Doe to my iPhone as a contact, within minutes the the contact would automatically be pushed to my blackberry. If John told me that there’s two e’s in his last name I can easily modify from either phone and it would be pushed to the other.

Check out this video for an explanation of Google Sync:

You can find the instructions for setting up Google Sync here. Try it out. It’s one of those apps that you’ll setup and not worry about after you do. If you’re having issues setting up drop me comment and I’ll be happy to help you out.

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