The Role of Mobile Operators in Expanding Access to Finance

15 May 2009

Mobile phones may have a huge role to play in expanding access to finance. But does the company that operates the mobile network need to actually provide financial services? Or should others offer financial services, with the mobile operator merely providing the underlying wireless connectivity? The fact that mobile phones can be used as transactional devices doesn’t necessarily mean that the mobile operator needs to “own” the financial service.

Banks tend to view mobile banking as a way to enhance service to existing customers, while mobile operators are more focused on addressing the mass market and the unbanked (Ivatury and Mas 2008). In the Philippines and Kenya, allowing mobile operators to design, market, and sell their own transactional savings products has opened a path for extending basic financial services to the mass market in a way that traditional banks have not done.