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OTC-a huge success…

19 Oct

Safaricom’s M-Pesa is now so well known in the mobile banking world that it has come to be accepted by some as a blueprint for mobile financial services. The service relies on the phone in the hands of the customer (now more than 12 million) to perform transactions and the phone in the hands of the agent (all 20,000 of them) to credit and debit accounts. But in markets that have either lower penetration of mobiles or higher fragmentation among operators, offering over-the-counter (OTC) payment services may be an important alternative, or additional, strategy.

In Pakistan, CGAP’s partners Tameer and Telenor deliberately decided to take a two phase approach in the roll out of Easy Paisa. They gave agents the phone first and trained them to process OTC transactions, so that they would become comfortable with the service. The customer didn’t need to have a phone at all to transact at the agent, but they would get an SMS receipt if they did. Six months later they launched the mobile wallet which allowed customers with a Telenor phone to have their own account hosted on their personal phone. But one year after launch the OTC service has been such a huge success that it accounts for the vast majority of transactions and revenues

OTC transactions might be a useful way of building customer trust in a system and in the long-run help provide an additional revenue stream. Additionally the fact that any customer can use the service  enables the disbursement of large scale payments such as salaries, government payments or international remittances.

Some mobile banking services might see the ability to conduct OTC as a step backwards, reducing the incentives for customers to open their own mobile account,but in their rush to roll out mobile banking services to their existing customers some may have missed an opportunity to leverage their air-time distribution networks to provide a form of very basic financial services to the population which could also act as a stepping stone to the provision of a mobile wallet – not to mention providing additional revenues to both their agents and their own bottom line.


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