Variations on a Theme: Business Models in Branchless Banking
We’ve done a lot of thinking at CGAP about the different business models and partnerships that exist in branchless banking. What I find interesting is that rarely do you find two models that look exactly alike. Once you begin to really dig beneath the surface, you realize that even among those businesses that we might simplistically call “telco-led” or “bank-led”, there are significant differences. For example, Orange’s partnership with BNP Paribas in Cote d’Ivoire (the local subsidiary BICICI) is slightly different than MTN’s partnership with Societe Generale (local subsidiary SGBCI) also in Cote d’Ivoire. Similarly, when we did our comparative agent research in Kenya, Brazil and India, we learned that while many banks in Brazil use agents extensively in their outreach strategy, they each manage their agent networks quite differently.
Instead of playing to the same tune, I’d say that branchless banking actors are playing variations on a theme. Here we share a couple videos that describe two particular variations out of the many that exist.
1st Variation: One of the largest Brazilian commercial banks Bradesco has been targeting the mass market since its beginning, going so far as to build branches without doors to encourage anyone to enter. It’s no surprise then that Bradesco has always been trying to be as close as possible to its customers (which currently number 62 million) and to future customers. In this video, Marcos Bader, General Director at Bradesco, explains how technology and new business models based on the use of agent networks have helped the bank reach this goal. He explains many interesting aspects of their business, but what I find quite remarkable in particular is that 90% of all transactions at the bank go through alternative distribution channels. Marcos also lives up to the Brazilian stereotype by somehow finding a way to draw a parallel between branchless banking and soccer!
2nd Variation: Regulation usually defines what branchless banking players can and cannot do. Roar Bjaerum, Head of easypaisa at Telenor Pakistan explains in this video how the regulation in Pakistan was clear in its “bank-led” approach. But regulation also allowed telcos to take ownership in banks. In 2008, this is exactly what Telenor Pakistan did in partnership with Tameer Microfinance Bank, paving the way for a truly innovative business model in branchless banking. As Roar explains, the market has since taken off in many different directions, with some banks leading their own branchless banking business and some telcos acquiring microfinance licenses. We’ve written about and discussed the Pakistan market a lot, but here Roar describes the market from the perspective of someone working on the day to day business of mobile money.
In these two particular “variations on a business model theme” and in the many others that exist around the world, the challenge, as Marcos puts it, is “to define the boundary between cooperation and competition.” This is indeed the task at hand in order to produce a wonderful melody instead of discordant chords in our objective to reach the unbanked.