Visa targets unbanked with new prepaid mobile product

Nov. 16, 2011 | by James Wester

Visa Inc. announced it is bringing a new prepaid mobile product to market in a bid to reach the unbanked in developing regions.

"Reaching consumers who have previously lacked access to formal financial services with secure and reliable electronic payments is finally a reality," said Jim McCarthy, head of product for Visa Inc., in the announcement.

The new product, a prepaid account that consumers can access through a mobile phone, is meant to offer consumers in developing economies, where cellphones are far more prevalent than bank accounts, a secure and reliable electronic payment account, Visa said.

"Mobile technology has become the single most important driver of financial inclusion that is enabling financial institutions, mobile network operators and Visa to connect unbanked consumers to each other and the global economy," McCarthy said.

The new product will first be offered to customers in Nigeria and Uganda through Visa partner MTM Group, a wireless provider in Africa and the Middle East.

"The launch of this product with Visa doesn’t only enhance our current mobile money offering, but also represents yet another crucial milestone in our journey to bring value-adding services to the growing population of mobile phone users in our markets," said Christian de Faria, MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer.

Visa's announcement comes five months after the company purchased mobile payment platform Fundamo as a part of its global strategy to knit together disparate mobile money networks in emerging economies.

According to Visa, the mobile money platform of Fundamo gives the company the ability to connect existing mobile money service to its own payment network, VisaNet. At the time of its purchase in June, Fundamo operated mobile money networks in 40 countries — mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America — with the ability to reach nearly 180 million customers. 

In the announcement, Visa said there are more than one hundred such mobile money programs reaching the unbanked worldwide. The company said its new product is intended to enhance the security, scale and interoperability of these mobile money programs, as well as making them more useful to consumers.

Visa said new services available to consumers through mobile money programs will include enhanced security backed by Visa's technology and authentication features, international remittances, e-commerce transactions, and even the ability to withdraw funds from ATMs using a prepaid companion card. Additionally, mobile network operators and financial institutions offering mobile money programs will have access to Visa's payment network for processing and account management services.

Visa said that other emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be among the first target markets for its new mobile prepaid product.

For more stories on this topic, please visit the Carriers/Card Schemes research center. 

Topics: ATMs , Carriers / Operators , Mobile Banking , Money Transfer / P2P , Region: EMEA

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