For those of you in the San Francisco/Bay Area, I will be starting up a Mobile Financial Services series which will be co-hosted by the Wharton Alumni and Harvard Business School Tech Alumni clubs. With some luck, I hope to bring in some fantastic panelists to join us with their insights regarding this relatively nascent industry. The first event will start this fall (likely early September) with a kickoff of the series. Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to September:
On another note…
I met with an industry leader in the unbanked financial services space recently who has grand visions around the future of financial services for the currently under-served population (in the US, he estimates this could be nearly 25% of the population!) He believes we are on the brink of revolutionizing the way the unbanked are served, partially due to the mobile aspect (not just because of the technology, but also due to the appeal to new professionals.) Why?
In the past 2 weeks, I have received at least 10 inquiries from people around the world seeking to get into this space. Here’s the analogy he drew, which I found to be quite intriguing. Think of the brain power this market is now attracting. He likened this to what Vegas was 15 years ago. Top MBAs never sought jobs in gambling back then… it would have been viewed as sub-optimal or professional suicide. However, over time, Vegas transformed itself into a city of “entertainment.” As such, many MBAs now seek jobs in this industry.
So, too, is the market to serve the unbanked. New business professionals are seeking positions in the mobile financial services space, the hottest industry besides green tech at the moment. What is this space now attacking? The check cashers…. When I began working with a prepaid mobile network operator to build their mobile financial services product plan, check cashing was something I knew very little about. Think about it… Not many MBAs or business professionals traditionally would have gone into the check cashing or even traditional remittance business in the past. As such, the pricing, the strategies, etc. appear to have developed in a more evolutionary rather than revolutionary path with significant fragmentation, etc. The unbanked segment has had to deal with the fee exploitations and inconvenience that many of these alternatives to banks provided. Now, with the advent of mobile and electronic money transfer, not only does the technology support revolutionary changes, but so too will the innovative business ideas developed by the new talent entering this industry.
Bring it on, I say. It’s time we rethink some of the old business cost structures, pricing, and services that have been less than ideal for this segment of the population. Let the revolution begin!