Visa Launches Mobile Money Managed Service for the ‘Unbanked’

13 February 2013

A new off-the-shelf mobile money platform from Visa has been launched that aims to make it easy and cost-efficient for financial institutions (FIs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) to offer mobile financial services to so-called ‘unbanked’ consumers.

The Visa Mobile Managed Service will allow those without a bank account in developing countries and elsewhere to still make payments, buy goods, send remittances and store value on their mobile phone devices, easing unbanked consumers path into the financial services ecosystem. The new launch, which has Aircel and ICICI Bank in India as launch partners, will compete with similar rival schemes such as M-Pesa in Kenya.

Visa says however that its more global platform will have greater reach and is the world’s first bank-grade managed service for mobile money. Visa will host and fully manage all aspects of the mobile money programme on behalf of the provider, whether that is a bank or other FI, consisting of the user interface design through to consumer enrolment procedures, transaction processing, authorisation procedures and the clearing and settlement of mobile money payments. The new service can enable domestic-only or globally interoperable mobile money services.

Unbanked consumers in India and Rwanda are the first to benefit from the service, with the aforementioned Aircel mobile subscribers in India already being offered the service with ICICI Bank looking after the payments element. Customers of Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Bank in Rwanda also have access to a financial account that is linked to their mobile phone number. From cash-in and -out transactions at agent locations, typically shops, consumers can take advantage of bank-grade financial services and Visa-quality payments to pay bills, send remittance money to relatives, top-up mobile phone air time credits and buy train tickets, among a host of other services.

“We applaud the pioneers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East who have launched closed-loop mobile financial services and reached so many consumers so quickly,” said Bill Gajda, head of global mobile products for Visa Inc, alluding to the established position of regional rivals like M-Pesa. “As demand grows, however, so does the cost and complexity to maintain these services. Visa’s new mobile money platform is designed to allow mobile operators and financial institutions to focus on their core business, while leaving the management of their mobile money service to Visa.”

Powered by Fundamo Technology
The new platform, which is being hosted in Visa managed data centres around the world, is built on Fundamo systems and software, the mobile money technology acquired by Visa in 2011, which has already been successfully deployed in more than 30 countries.

Visa says its new platform is designed to comply with the regulatory frameworks established for mobile financial services. It offers MNOs and FIs a local connection to Visa’s global payment network, VisaNet, and a one-stop solution for providing mobile money services that are based on Visa standards of security, reliability and interoperability. Through the new platform, Visa can manage all aspects of a mobile money service, including:

• Mobile Money Programme Management: Visa, on behalf of the mobile money service provider, can manage the customer enrolment and mobile wallet user interface, fees, commissions and taxes, as well as apply risk management tools, reporting capabilities, and other ‘on-behalf-of’ services. This reduces implementation costs and resources required to deploy mobile money services, but does of course cede control.

• Support for any Mobile Channel: Mobile money service providers can use industry standard interfaces to connect to Visa’s new platform, and can send mobile money transactions across all mobile channels including USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), xHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), and IVR (Interactive Voice Response).

• Support for a Comprehensive Set of Transactions: The platform enables financial transactions in both closed-loop and open-loop environments, including cash-in and -out transactions at agent locations and ATMs, domestic and international money transfers, payments at merchants where Visa is accepted, as well as bill payments and air-time top up. It also supports informational transactions such as bulk registration, balance inquiries, PIN and account management.

• Customer Support and Regulatory Compliance: Visa’s Mobile Managed Service can support compliance with mobile and financial regulatory requirements in different countries. In addition, the platform can offer comprehensive customer support capabilities including monitoring and maintenance of connections to host systems, disaster recovery, incident management, as well as customer response management and account management workflows concerning anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures.

• Visa Payment Security: The platform combines Visa’s risk processing technology with the security and authentication features of mobile devices, allowing the mobile money service provider to offer financial transactions that are based on Visa’s card standards for transaction security, reliability and interoperability.

One of the launch partners, Geoff King, head of mobile banking at Aircel in India was excited by the new service, saying: “Through the Visa hosted and managed service, Aircel is now able to partner with local banks to offer our mobile subscribers access to money services that will simplify their financial lives. We begin with our partnership with ICICI to offer customers the ability to send cash across the country securely, to top up their prepaid mobile accounts, and pay their utility bills.”

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