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Financial inclusion at the fingertips of five million Peruvians


Editor’s note: Today we feature a guest post on financial inclusion via the Ericsson Mobile Financial Services blog . The author is Jeffrey Bower, a leader in digital payments innovation, who, among other clients, works with the Better Than Cash Alliance, a UN-based partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth.

A groundbreaking initiative in Peru that focuses on bringing financial services to those who need it most has been launched after years of development. All over the country, Peruvians, who for centuries have been transacting in cash, can now access digital financial services right in the palm of their hands. The service, called “Bim”, enables any Peruvian with a mobile phone to open a bank account and make payments. This can be done without ever having to visit a bank.

To many of us, sending money to friends and family and paying your bills may not seem like a big deal. But for the poor, the amount of time, energy, and money spent completing transactions is significant and, for people with limited funds, it is beyond acceptable.

Peru is a country where, despite all the best efforts of banks and the like, formal financial services have only reached 30 percent of the population. Thanks to Bim, the expectation is that in five years, five million people will use the service, significantly increasing access.

While the technology from Ericsson behind these services is as powerful as it is impressive, the real story is about how a diverse set of financial services organizations, normally fierce competitors, were able to work together to offer a service that will attract new users to formal financial services. In what seems unlikely, altogether 32 financial institutions in Peru cooperated and shared resources to build a payments platform designed to bring more people into the formal financial services system.

Instead of competing, the entities in Peru saw the value of cooperation, forming deep partnerships through the Peruvian bankers association ASBANC. Instead of spending resources building their own systems, they jointly invested and built just one together with Ericsson. Instead of fighting over customer ownership, they shared access to agents, branches and ATMs. Instead of competitive marketing campaigns and mixed messages, they worked together under a new brand to attract their individual target customer segments to the new common payment product.

Taking the best lessons from other implementations around the world, the Peruvians worked together to build a solution for mobile financial services designed to combat the major challenges of delivering financial services to the poor: reach scale, ensure liquidity, and design a product able to attract people away from cash. This was no small task. Many details needed to be worked over and over again. After much effort, the result is Bim – the world’s first interoperable mobile digital financial services system focused on financial inclusion. Working across three of the country’s major mobile telecommunication networks, financial inclusion is finally in the grasp of everyday Peruvians.

What took place in Peru shows that collaboration is a hugely useful and important tool in building payments systems that reach scale and works to substantially improve the ability to bring millions into the world of digital payments.

You can read the original post on the Mobile Financial Services blog here: http://www.ericsson.com/m-commerce/blog/financial-inclusion-fingertips-five-million-peruvians

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