Mobile wallet, with advances and challenges in the region and the world
With a cell phone in hand, Latin Americans carry out, with increasing frequency, a series of operations such as money transfers, balance inquiries at financial institutions, deposits, withdrawals, cell phone recharges, service payments, payments in stores, among others.
Until 2017, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Colombia were the four countries where there were three or more mobile or electronic money services, according to the report 'Panorama del dinero móvil en América Latina y el Caribe' (Panorama of mobile money in Latin America and the Caribbean), prepared by the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (Cemla). According to this document, 43 mobile money products and services were registered in operation in 26 countries during the year.
In most countries that use this system, there is a key element: it is available for basic mobile devices and does not require Internet access or balance consumption.
In Peru, where 43% of people over the age of 15 have a savings account and 97% of households use mobile telephony, the Mobile Wallet (BIM) has been in operation since 2016. Three years later, last May, 646,000 users made more than 807,000 transactions for a total amount that exceeded 113 million soles (USD 33.8 million). They are still small figures for the size of the Peruvian economy, but there is optimism.
In Mexico, where close to 30% of the population is banked, the mobile wallet is also being promoted. In that country, until last year only 2% of the population used mobile money and it is estimated that the maturity of this system will come in about five years.
In the region, one of the difficulties for the model to grow is infrastructure. Gonzalo Núñez, the financial services partner at Ernst & Young, a consulting firm in Mexico, points out that mobile wallets already have time in the global market and has had a boost thanks to the millennials.
This new reality comes hand in hand with the advancement of mobile telephony. Last year, Latin America and the Caribbean had 442 million mobile phone subscribers, representing 68% of the population, according to the study 'The mobile economy in Latin America and the Caribbean 2018', prepared by GSMA, a firm specializing in this industry.
The report adds that the penetration rate of mobile telephony in the region remains slightly ahead of the world average (66%), but behind developed markets, including Europe and North America.
A paradox in Japan
In Japan, where technology is more advanced, there is a paradox: people prefer to pay in cash when they consider banknotes more tangible than electronic payments.
The Japanese government aims to almost double the number of electronic transactions and to make them 40% by 2025, in a country where the use of banknotes is still widespread compared to other economic powers. This explains why in 2018, only 24% of payment transactions were made by electronic means.
The fidelity to the old banknotes in Japan, a technological power clinging to traditional values, is significant considering that in this country for 15 years there have been contactless means of payment, through microchip systems installed in plastic cards or mobile phones.