In Japan it is not uncommon for people to make everyday purchases using only a cell phones. A variety of secure mobile technologies alowing for easy transfer of money from one’s bank account or credit card to retailer have existed for some time. The trend is catching on in the developing world as well, where those who do not have bank accounts or credit cards can move or store money and credits via cell phones. A good review of some current M-banking and M-remittance services in the developing world can be found here.
In reading recenly about a bank sponsored program to help the “unbanked” poor in San Francisco open up banking accounts, I was struck by how far behind the curve we seem to be in America in leveraging the same mobile opportunities that are coming online around the globe.
Posts in category 'Financial'
Mobile phones are making life better for people in remote, underserved areas of India. They no longer have to walk kilometers to public call offices to use a telephone—an essential tool for buying and selling goods based on the latest market data, getting credit from lenders and other commonplace activities. So far, most of the benefits have come from one of the phone’s simplest features: voice calls.
With more than 250 million mobile users and 6 million new ones added each month, India now has the “teledensity” to support more-sophisticated mobile technologies, which could have a big impact on Indian society and the economy in the next few years. (An extra 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country leads to an additional 0.59 percentage points of growth in GDP per person, according to a London Business School study.) These include “voice broadcast” services that would let a truck owner inform residents of a village about a scheduled trip to the city, or doctors announce the availability of polio vaccinations. A more complex system would allow a small business, say, to keep track of shipments. What’s holding up these services is the lack of mobile banking.
Umpqua has collaborated with numerous technology companies including Cisco, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nexus IS, Inc. and Planar to develop and integrate technology that enhances the customer experience and store operations. In many cases, it is the first time these technologies have been implemented in a consumer setting.
Inside The Lab: Harnessing Technology to Create Community
The Innovation Lab is designed to serve the community as a hub of activity, information and resources, including available meeting space. At opening, it will feature:
- Product Wall: A 25-foot, interactive, seamless dynamic plasma wall that features touch screen technology, pod casts and community search functionality.
- Community Wall: This interactive display wall serves as the store’s official community center. It provides information on volunteer opportunities and community events, supports fundraising for community organizations and includes a survey option for users to tell Umpqua which topics they would like to learn more about.
- LocalSpace: Umpqua’s own social networking site. Designed to connect and assist local businesses in a virtual setting, LocalSpace offers opportunities for mentoring, expert advice, public community calendars and 3-D mapping from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.
- Computer Café: Features tables embedded with state-of-the-art Lenovo laptops inviting visitors to try out easy-access online banking solutions or simply surf the Web.
- Ask an Expert: Uses the Cisco Unified Meeting Place solution to connect customers face-to-face with experts on a wide range of financial topics at any time.
- Interactive and In-store Shopping: Browse merchandise from local merchants as well as Umpqua’s Discover Local Music CDs, books and other finds.
“South Bay residents Curtis McGovert, Dave Ritter and Leon Mendiola have at least three things in common. They own cell phones. They bank at Wells Fargo. And they didn’t realize that they effectively have an ATM in their pockets that they now can use to do some of their banking – anytime, anywhere.
Make that four things in common: As intriguing as “mobile banking” sounds to each of them, none is dying to try it. They either don’t see a clear need for it or worry that it’s vulnerable to hackers.
“I’m just a basic user,” said McGovert, a 33-year-old personal trainer from Milpitas. “I’m not into all the high tech. I’m old school.”
And there, in a nutshell, is the challenge that banks face as they race to roll out the next big thing for on-the-go consumers. To succeed, they must show customers it’s convenient and easy to use their cell phone to check balances, transfer money and watchdog their finances even if they’re miles from a computer.”
Although a good introductory article to the issue, it doesn’t contain a word on Africa, where mobile banking has taken off quite spectacularly and where mobile banking services are much more innovative than in the Bay Area.
If you want to keep abreast on developments in this field, here is a crop of news stories from just this last week:
A recent special report in Business Week on how basic cell phones are sparking economic hope and growth in emerging — and even non-emerging — nations. The report takes a particular look at the micro- and macro-economic impacts of this development, and what it means for local entrepreneurs and major mobile operators. It also features an online extra on the use of mobile phones by artisans and tradespeople in rural India, a summary graphic and a slideshow;
A Reuters story on the beeping boom in Africa, what the social practices are, and how that is pushing mobile operators to innovate their services;
A post on the Vodafone R&D Betavine blog on the Mukuru Kash service that like Paypal will store funds that you pay to them online and then set up a voucher which can be redeemed at the petrol station for fuel;
“Next: bridging the digital divide“, a recent post by Niti Bhan, where she puts developments in the bigger picture of bridging the digital divide between the digital haves and have nots, and wonders what will happen if all these people in the developing world can also start accessing the internet from their mobile devices;
In a recent post on mobile banking, Barbara Ballard of Little Springs Design guides us to three blogs on the topic: Mobile Banking (news and analysis from Brandon McGee, a VP in charge of mobile banking), Mobile Money & Banking, and Mobile Banking, the blog of Hannes van Rensburg, CEO of a South African mobile banking provider Fundamo.
Note by the way that all the user research work by Jan Chipchase and others seems to have paid off: Nokia dominates the mobile handset landscape in India with an astonishing 74% market share.
Excerpted from the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies:
Jyske Bank recently fundamentally changed its business concept, so the customer can put together his own banking solution. The bank has focused on the product experience, both “virtually” and in the branch. The bank calls the initiative “Jyske Difference” ["Jyske Forskelle"] and their slogan is “Jyske is the bank that makes a difference.”
In the short process (four months) during which the new business concept has been developed and partially implemented, the bank has been especially inspired by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies‘ thoughts on Creative Man and the individualization megatrend. As they write to FO/futureorientation:
“Many consumers see banks and bank products as uniform – and a little boring. At the same time, we see that customers are changing behavior. They want more influence; they are more self-reliant while demanding personal service. The creative consumer, who wishes to create his or her own solution, is the coming thing. Consumers want to tailor their own charter vacations, car, and bank product. With the new initiative, the bank can better meet the modern consumer types of the present. With Jyske Difference, Jyske Bank signals that we are more than a bank. Jyske Bank is a bank, a store, and a modern library. Jyske Bank is the place where customers become smarter, inspired, and experience a straightforward atmosphere.”
See also this concept presentation video (2:49).
At the end of August Frank Pedersen, communication- and marketing director at Jyske Bank, will explain what they did and what the result was one year after, at Motion, the brand new experience economy conference in Norway.
Participants at a recent Web 2.0 conference organised by Nomades Advanced Technologies Interactive Workshops (NATIW) [blog] in Geneva, Switzerland were scratching their heads as to what it all means.
Among them were some pretty wily web veterans, including a member of the team from Europe’s Nuclear Research Centre (Cern) that actually invented the web.
Web 2.0 may not be the different species some claim, but sort of what they had in mind from the start.
“The original slogan was always to have a web that was easy to write as it was to read,” said Robert Cailliau of the World Wide Web Consortium.
“We went through a sort of dark ages where the ideas survived, but the technology needed to catch up, so where we are now is indeed the point at which the people take control of the web, make their input, which is what we originally wanted.
“Our idea was for a web that was as easy to write as to read.”
The article then continues on how the concept of user-generated content is also having an impact outside the internet, and particularly on architecture, with some designers now “putting the people in charge of changing the look of buildings”, with the “internet of things” becoming “the real departure from the original vision of the web’s founders.”
Examples of this approach featured in the article are:
- the SMS-enabled buildings in Berlin and Paris by the German Chaos Computer Club
- the interactive Swiss House in Boston, designed by Jeffrey Huang, director of the Media and Design Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (who is also working on the architecture of banking)
- a building designed by Carlo Ratti Associates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the International Exposition in Zaragoza, Spain.
“The concept is called social lending and the idea is to introduce people who need money to people who want to lend some – cutting out the middlemen like banks and mortgage companies.”
The article first describes the ‘mainstream’ Zopa service, but then goes on to present the social lending site Kiva which allows lenders to give to a specific entrepreneur in a poor or developing world country, and FXA World, the world’s first peer-to-peer currency exchange where you can trade your foreign currency at a rate that you have set or at the rate the banks trade among themselves.
See also these earlier stories on Putting People First about the same topic.
A Web site based in Britain, Zopa.com, and another in the United States, Prosper.com, have started businesses that connect individuals eager to borrow money to other people willing to lend, offering both sides better interest rates than banks.
Banking analysts suggest that these hyper-efficient operations, with few employees and no costly real estate, could force changes to established banks.
Merholz gave the talk at Chile’s first information architecture conference.
The presentation is based on two case studies — the development of the content strategy for the public site of the Wells Fargo Bank, with the goal of getting more people to apply online; and the redesign of the customer site for an unnamed financial services and planning firm with the aim of encouraging a deeper customer relationship — and highlights five major lessons learned.
You will need the audio recording in order for the presentation file to make sense. And vice versa.
“About half a million South Africans now use their mobile phones as a bank. Besides sending money to relatives and paying for goods, they can check balances, buy mobile airtime and settle utility bills. Traditional banks offer mobile banking as an added service to existing customers, most of whom are quite well off. But Wizzit (an innovative provider of financial services), and to some extent First National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are chasing another market: the 16m South Africans, over half of the adult population, with no bank account. Significantly, 30% of these people do have mobile phones. Wizzit hired and trained over 2,000 unemployed people, known as Wizzkids, to drum up business. It worked: eight out of ten Wizzit customers previously had no bank account and had never used an ATM. [...]“
“In most of Africa, meanwhile, only a fraction of people have bank accounts—but there is huge demand for cheap and convenient ways to send money and buy prepaid services such as airtime. Many Africans, having skipped landlines and jumped to mobiles, already use prepaid airtime as a way of transferring money. They could now leap from a world of cash to cellular banking. [...]“
“The technology remains clunky in some cases, with downloads requiring dozens of text messages. Several rival platforms are still in the fight, but so far those that emphasise simplicity and ease-of-use over state-of-the-art technology and security have made the greatest strides.”
“Its designers try to see and sense the world by getting inside the heads of their fellow human consumers. The firm-a dream come true for the concerned parents of liberal arts majors everywhere-employs anthropologists, cognitive psychologists, and sociologists, among other right-brain thinkers, to create, improve, or reimagine all manner of products, services, work spaces, and business systems.”
“It’s a very human-centered process,” says Tom Kelley, the firm’s general manager and brother of founder David Kelley. “Others approach a problem from the point of view that says, ‘We have the smartest people in the world; therefore, we can think this through.’ We approach it from the point of view that the answer is out there, hidden in plain sight, so let’s go observe human behavior and see where the opportunities are.”
The reason for this strategy is the same one that leads companies across many sectors to play the lifestyle card: a proliferation of competitors peddling largely interchangeable wares. If a bank wants to stand out, it’s fairly difficult to do so with the financial products it offers. It can, however, differentiate the manner in which it sells and packages those products. This is more or less the approach that Umpqua’s C.E.O., Ray Davis, has taken over the past dozen years or so. When he started, Umpqua was just another small regional bank, with about $150 million in deposits. Today (because of acquisitions, in addition to building new branches), the figure has increased to more than $7 billion.
Read full story (permanent link)
Almost every company has something about customer focus in its mission statement. Trouble is, the larger the organization, the more executives tend to insulate themselves from customers. Some rely on customer-satisfaction surveys and focus groups. Others simply assume that customers are just like them.
No, they’re not, says McQuillen. And the problem with thinking they are is that companies end up creating products and processes that suit them, not their customers. “You need,” he says, “to go out and talk to customers to find out what they want.”
In particular, they were showing a new branch for the Bank of Smithtown, that included a coffee bar and a children’s play area. They spoke to the manager there, who gave one of the most compelling arguments for the need to create better experiences that David ever heard: “Typically a bank like this in the suburbs would do $1 million to $1.5 million a month (and) would be a fairly successful branch. When we first opened, this branch did a $1 million a week for the first 25 weeks.”
ThinkEquity Partners, a boutique investment bank in San Francisco, was going to find out on Thursday by introducing a Web log. The firm, which specializes in technology, health care and other fast-growing fields, is seeking to make its investment research department – an albatross at most Wall Street firms – relevant.
ThinkEquity is betting that the blog will attract analysts, bankers, investors, venture capitalists and anyone else interested in talking about growth investing, helping the company generate ideas.
The firm’s research is available to all and, once registered, anyone can post feedback on the site. The blog can be found at www.thinkequity.com/blog.