Digital security provider Gemalto N.V. anticipates its new partnership with three companies in Mexico will provide more opportunities throughout Latin America to help provide mobile financial services.
Gemalto will provide and manage the software necessary for banks Banamex and Banco Inbursa and telecommunication firm American Movil to offer Transfer, a mobile-payment service to their customers.
Banamex is the Mexican unit of Citigroup Inc., while Banco Inbursa is controlled by Grupo Carso, the holding company for American Movil. American Movil is the largest telecom service provider in Latin America, and it owns Telcel, a Mexican service provider with more than 67 million customers, according to an April 23 release.
Transfer will depend on Gemalto’s LinqUs mobile-payment platform to offer users a way to load and withdraw cash, transfer funds, purchase airtime and make payments.
The success of this partnership could set up Gemalto for more Latin American business, says Jean-Claude Deturche, Gemalto senior vice president of mobile financial solutions. Nearly 70% of the Mexican population is unbanked, Deturche says, citing the market the partners are targeting to bring into the financial system.
“What we foresee, that’s the starting point in Mexico, with Banamex and Inbursa and Telcel,” says Deturche. “We know that there are banks already knocking on the door because financial inclusion means new customers for the banks.”
Deturche would not discuss the terms of the contract but says “the more users, the better off we are.”
Transfer allows users without smartphones to use its services with Short Message Service text messaging, says Celent senior analyst Zilvinas Bareisis. Anyone with a Telcel handset can open a Banamex Transfer or Inbursa Transfer account by texting 4040 to create a PIN.
Once funds are deposited into the account through a branch of Inbursa or Banamex, the user can transfer an amount by texting 4040 and entering the Telcel mobile number to the funds recipient and the amount.
The sender receives a text confirming the amount sent and an authorization number. When the user wants to add mobile minutes to his phone, he texts 4040 with the word RECHARGE and the number of minutes. To recharge another Telcel phone, the process is the same with the addition of the 10-digit Telcel mobile phone number getting the minutes. The charge for each text is 88 U.S. cents, according to the Telcel website.
Mobile-phone use is almost ubiquitous in developing countries, but smartphone use is not. As with many new payments offerings, mobile-payment services require partnerships between different types of players to bring their respective strengths, such as technology-infrastructure development and management, says Bareisis.
This is important because, while many are unbanked, not many are without a mobile phone, Bareisis says.
“Latin America is a very fast-growing region in payments with lots of potential for many innovative payments services,” Bareisis says. “Mobile payments based on SMS do not require expensive handsets, like smartphones, and can reach a much broader population, particularly in a market such as Mexico.”
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