The State of the Branchless Banking Sector

11 May 2011
4 comments

As part of our efforts to promote branchless banking as a way of reducing the cost and expanding the reach of financial services, the Technology Program monitors the uptake of branchless banking around the world. We have recently completed a mapping exercise to estimate the size of the current global market for branchless banking by analyzing all services in Low and Middle Income Countries (as classified by the World Bank) that were live at the end of 2010.

Before we get to the numbers, let me start with a caveat: some of the numbers in this post have large margins of error. Our aim in this exercise was not to get an exact figure for the number of people in the world that use branchless banking, but a sense of the order of magnitude and more importantly the speed at which the market is growing and the regional variations in this trend.

So with that health warning – here are some of the headline figures.

At the end of 2010 our best estimate was that there were 238 million customers registered for branchless banking services, of which we estimate that approximately 185 million were active users. Interestingly, however, only 45 million used the services for saving.

The comparable figures for 2009 are 181 million registered customers, 137 million active customers, and 16 million savers. So these figures have grown by 31%, 35% and 174% respectively. This is positive news as branchless banking providers have not only signed up a third more customers in the last year, they have also made progress in increasing the number of people that are actually using the services.

The biggest services are in Russia (where services use advanced ATMs that allow cash-in as well as cash-out), Brazil (where bill payment at agents has reached almost every municipality), India (driven by the distribution of government payments) and, of course, Kenya (where M-PESA has revolutionized the way people send money).

There are also a lot more actors entering the market. At the end of 2010 there were 96 deployments around the world of which 50 had active customers. At the end of 2009 only 30 deployments had active customers. And perhaps most encouragingly, several services are now starting to reach significant scale. 22 services have over 1 million registered customers (up from 15 at the end of 2009).

There are also significant variations between regions. Below are the numbers of active deployments in each of the world’s major regions:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 51
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: 19
  • East Asia and Pacific: 15
  • South Asia: 10
  • Middle East & North Africa: 1
  • Europe & Central Asia: 1

The large number of deployments in sub-Saharan Africa should not be a surprise given the large numbers of small countries and more permissive regulatory environments on the continent. But in the short term at least, it looks like customer numbers are being driven by other regions of the world. We’ll repeat this analysis at the start of 2011 to see if this growth can continue. With 2.7 billion adults in the world who lack access to formal financial services there is still plenty of room for growth.

 

- Chris Bold

Countries: 

Comments

Submitted by Ignacio Mas on
Hi Chris, thanks for giving us this top-level view, that’s very useful. You express disappointment that “only” 45 million people used the service for savings, as this represents only one third of the total branchless banking users. But look at it another way: the 45 million savers on branchless banking are already more than half the total number of depositors in the entire MIX database. The mix savings data is very heavily dominated by Bangladesh. Take Bangladesh out, and the branchless banking savers you report are equal to almost 90% of the total number of depositors in the MIX. Of course, the other question is how average savings balances compare. This is probably where savers on branchless banking don’t fare so well relative to the aggragate of savers contained in the MIX database. So your overall sentiment may still be right. In any case, I’d be curious to know how you arrived at the 45 million figure? Can you provide a break-down by institution? Thanks again, Ignacio

Submitted by Chris Bold on
Ignacio, Thanks for your response and follow up question. The figure for the number of savers using branchless banking services is probably the one with the highest margin of error. Most providers were happy to give us figures for the number of registered customers and many also gave us figures for the number of customers that were active (for those that didn’t we applied what we considered to be an appropriate “discount rate”). When calculating the number of savers we used either the number of accounts with positive month-end balances, where this information was available, and where the data did not exist we either used a figure equal to the number of registered customers (in instances where an active account implied that customers were using the account to store funds) or zero (in cases where the service does not allow savings). Note that we are using a broad definition of savings here that is met whenever customer keep their money for any period of time in electronic form and it does not imply that the account has other features that might be associated with a “savings account”, for example that interest is paid on a positive balance in the account. Some of the figures that we received were given to us under the condition that they were only disclosed in aggregate form so unfortunately we cannot give the names of institutions. We did not attempt to gather information on average balances and this might be something to consider when we repeat this analysis at the end of 2011.

Submitted by Anonymous on
[...] CGAP estimates that at the end of 2010 there were 238 million (up from 181 million in 2009) customers registered for branchless banking services – of these approximately 185 million (up from 137 million in 2009) were active users. We are currently seeing growth of 31 percent in registered users and 35 percent in active users. The number of providers is also growing fast. At the end of 2010 there were 96 deployments around the world, of which 50 have active customers and 22 services have over 1 million registered customers. In contrast, at the end of 2009 only 30 deployments had active customers and 15 had over 1 million registered customers. [...]

Submitted by Anonymous on
We’ve done a few more calculations on the same data set to determine how many branchless banking implementations and customers are using mobile phone versus card based services. 64% of branchless banking implementations are based on mobile phones. However, 84% of registered customers and 89% of active customers are actually using card-based services. The vast majority of these are in Brazil, India and Russia. It’ll be interesting to see whether this trend starts to reverse next year and mobile phone based services start to catch up or whether card-based services maintain their dominance in numbers of customers.

Add new comment