My financial services journey wasn’t planned. When I retired, I decided to travel and foster entrepreneurship in developing countries. Little did I know that one trip to Africa would entice me back to work. I began to see how financial services technology, using mobile, would bring banking to the poor, while changing my belief in new possibilities.
During a visit to the Congo in 2002, I stopped by a mobile phone store where locals added minutes to their cell phone SIM cards. I remember looking at the poverty and unwieldy payment system. Then I had an epiphany: mobile banking was the key that would transform how people exchanged money.
I immediately started investigating the world of mobile money. Would it work? Could I build a company that delivered mobile financial services to those without banking relationships? Which countries were best choices? I eventually chose several countries in Africa, India and the United States, developed partnerships with key players and launched a company.
My Financial Services Journey Goes Global
That was 12 years ago. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to advise financial institutions around the world–from India, where 88% of transactions are cash, to Africa, where less than 5% of people in some countries have bank accounts. While I’ve seen great progress, there’s a long financial services journey ahead. Global electronic transactions are approximately $7-10 trillion a year, leaving plenty of room for more players and future growth.
In July 2010, Brian Prows from MobileBeyond spoke with me in a podcast interview regarding my trip to Africa and my views on the future of mobile banking. It was a pleasure speaking with him and sharing my belief that mobile banking can create lasting economic stability around the globe. I invite you to listen to the interview as an introductory podcast. In future posts I’ll describe the Global Financial Pioneers’ work and recent podcast interviews.
Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
Content from the interviews is included in my forthcoming book, Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Co-authored by Karl Mehta, this book covers innovative global financial services never provided by traditional banks.
Over the years, I’ve marveled at how many countries around the world have begun employing mobile banking technology to bring financial services within reach of unbanked and financially excluded people. To say the growth has been explosive is an understatement. Today, companies like Airtel, Vodafone, American Express, WalMart and many others are delivering viable solutions that change communities.
These solutions involve new technology and innovative companies. You’ll hear more about them as I continue my financial services journey.