Business News of Monday, 26 November 2012

Source: myjoyonline

Airtel expands Mobile Banking to capture 50% of customers

Airtel Ghana says it is further expanding its Mobile Money platform, particularly the Mobile Banking portfolio to give existing and prospective customers a wider range of usage opportunities aimed at capturing at least 50% of customers onto Airtel Money.

Airtel recently said it has 900,000 Airtel Money customers, which is 29.6% of its total subscriber base as at September ending this year; and out of that, about 30,000 are doing Mobile Banking.

“We want to capture at least 50% of our subscriber based on Airtel Money so we are providing a wide range of options particularly in Moblie Banking to give customers reasons to want be on Airtel Money,” Operations Manager, Airtel Money Carl Ashie told Adom News.

The telco is therefore adding more banks to its seven partner banks, drafting non-banking microfinance institutions unto the platform, expanding cardless ATM withdrawals, and also encouraging what they call Mobile Savings.

The Airtel Money platform also has several other usage opportunities like bill payments (DSTV and Water), payment of school fees, online and offline shopping, restaurants, and insurance, in addition to the basic airtime purchase and cash transfers.

Airtel Money already has seven partner banks, ECOBANK, Standard Chartered Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA, UT Bank, UniBank and GT Bank, but Ashie said there is an ongoing process to add on more partner banks and also to bring other banks onboard for cardless ATM withdrawals without necessarily making them partner banks.

Some telecom executive has argued that it is too early to have that many usage opportunities for Mobile Money in Ghana, because the idea is still at its early stages in Ghana and so users are likely to get confused.

But Ashie said Airtel believes the way to make Mobile Money succeed in Ghana is to expand the usage opportunities so that if one portfolio does not appeal to a particular subscriber, another could, and in the process, that subscriber could also be introduced to other services on the platform, which he/she may not have been aware of.

“The plan is to have as many usage opportunities each targeted at different categories of customers and prospective customers such that no one is left behind in this move towards a cashless society. Just like we have separate packages targeted at high value customers, different from those targeted at low spenders on our network,” he explained.

“Our main enemy here is cash and so we believe in doing everything necessary to make sure whatever you can use cash for, you can use Airtel Money for, and it’s safer, convenient and more secure using Airtel Money than cash,” Ashie noted.

MOBILE SAVINGS Ashie said Airtel has, for instance, partnered ECOBANK to offer a special service called ECOBANK Mobile Savings, which is designed to enable unbanked petty traders, in particular, to have savings accounts at ECOBANK and make savings through Airtel Money from the comfort of their sales outlets and homes, without having to cross jammed traffic to the bank.

“The Mobile Saving Account can be opened through a very brief process and the account becomes active in 48 hours and when you want to save money you go to an Airtel Money agent and give him/her the money and they save it for you, then you will get a sms with the details of the transaction,” he said.

Ashie said moving money from the Mobile Savings Account is just through the Airtel Money wallet, which means one can operate a bank account without ever stepping into the banking hall of that bank.

He said the other six partner banks have also expressed interest in Mobile Savings so Airtel is in the process of bringing all of them onboard the platform.

Ashie said Airtel is also targeting non-banking microfinance institutions as well, adding that lots of such institutions like the Ghana Education Service Corporative Union are already using Airtel Money for cash collection through an auto-deduct system.

“The aim is to make all Airtel Money customers be able to access banking services, check bank accounts, get mini statements, save and cash money from their accounts without the usual hustle,” he said.

Airtel Money also runs a cardless ATM withdrawal service with Energy Bank, on their headquarters and Accra Central branch ATMs, as well as five other ATMs in Tema, Kumasi and other parts of the country. The service is also available at the ECOBANK headquarters ATM.

Head of Airtel Money, Martison Obeng-Agyei said so far Airtel Money is recording some GHC30,000 cardless ATM withdrawals every week at the headquarters of Energy Bank alone.

“I know Zenith Bank and ECOBANK are also on their way to start doing cardless cash withdrawals for Airtel Money customers at all their ATMs, but it is a complex process so we are working on the complex part so we can make the experience comfortable for our customers,” Ashie said.

He said for ATMs that allow cardless withdrawal, there is an option that reads “Cardless Transaction”, so the customer would need to press that nub and follow the prompts, adding that it allows GHC200 cash out per transaction, and one is allowed five transactions a day for a total of GHC1,000.

“The good thing about this is that the normal ATM withdrawals allow between GHC400 to GHC800 cash withdrawals in a day, but if you need extra money, you can transfer money from your bank account to your Airtel Money wallet and do a cardless withdrawal from a compatible ATM,” he said.

Obeng-Agyei said there is no limited on when one can do Mobile Banking on Airtel Money because no matter the time of day or night, or even on weekends, one can move money from bank to wallet and vice-a-versa so customers have access to their money 24/7, and one does not need a sophisticated handset to do Airtel Money.

Airtel is the fourth biggest mobile operator in Ghana with a little over 3million customers representing 12% market share. It also offers the most mobile money usage opportunities in the country.