Moving into mobile financial services

The world's biggest handset manufacturer Nokia has teamed with Obopay to launch a mobile financial management and payments service targeted at unbanked people in developing countries. Nokia Money lets users send funds to another person just by using their mobile phone number. It can also be used to buy goods and services from merchants, pay utility bills and top up pre-paid SIM cards.
The firm is also building a network of Nokia Money agents, where consumers can deposit money or withdraw cash from their accounts.
The service is based on Obopay's mobile payment platform. Nokia took a minority stake - understood to be worth $70mn - in the m-payments specialist earlier this year.
The handset maker says the service will be open and interoperable with other payment services, designed to work in partnership with mobile network operators and financial institutions, involving distributors and merchants.
Nokia claims m-payments will be the next step for delivering financial services to hundreds of millions of people who are underserved by existing payment means, especially in emerging economies.
Mary McDowell, chief development officer, Nokia, says, "With more than four billion mobile phone users and only 1.6bn bank accounts, global demand for access to financial services presents a strong opportunity to combine mobile devices with simple but powerful financial services such as Nokia Money."
The service will be rolled out "gradually to selected markets" from early next year.
Rapid adoption in the developing world will fuel a boom in mobile payments over the next three years, with global transaction volumes reaching $250bn in 2012, according to a recent report from Arthur D Little.
Obopay is already working with microfinance pioneer Grameen on an initiative that aims to use mobile technology to deliver banking services to a billion of the world's poorest people by 2018.
Another programme, from the GSMA, which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also launched recently, aiming to expand the availability of financial services to millions of people in the developing world.

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