Mobile Money

8th January 2010

Alexander Graham Bell once predicted, modestly, that there would be a telephone in every town. It’s impossible to imagine what he would think of his invention now, in a world where there is a telephone in almost every pocket. Instead of a fixed method for occasional or emergency communication, the telephone is a tool that takes your life with it, everywhere you go.

Grace Fuller hears from Richard Johnson, of the leading international mobile banking and payments company Monitise, about the next telephony revolution: mobile money.

Ten years ago the internet was still in its infancy. Mobile telephony was in its adolescence. A marriage between the two hadn’t even been considered.

Technology has its own mometum, though. By 2004 there were already more mobile phones than people in the UK – an impressive market penetration for a technology that was never expected to have widespread appeal. Sir Christopher Gent, former Vodafone chief executive, recently recalled that when the company launched its first mobile phone in1985, it projected there would only be ‘about a million mobiles’ ever sold. BT also thought, apparently, that mobile communications would never be mass market. At the time, such a cautious approach to this bizarre and expensive technology must have seemed wise; now – when mobile phones and internet access on the move are a fact of daily life – it seems stunningly out of touch.

In the last decade we’ve been introduced to the wonders (or otherwise) of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Skype, to the iPod and the iPhone, to podcasts and digital downloads and tv/radio on demand. Technology pages bristle with acronyms and abbreviations… DAB, HD, VOD, PS3, Sat Nav, 3G. Blink and you’ll be left behind – along with VHS video recorders, CD players and mini-discs, pagers and fax machines, film cameras and paper maps.

So what do the next ten years hold? Is there anywhere else to go? Oh, yes…

Richard Johnson, one of the world’s leading mobile money experts, is chief strategy officer at one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, Monitise. He foresees that the next revolution will be connecting people to their money on their mobile phone. “Technology is moving so fast that our phones already double-up as music players, cameras and personal organisers,” he says. According to research undertaken by the think tank Future Foundation and Monitise, the proportion of people who use their phone for banking purposes increased 30% in the year ending November 2009. The overall figure is still fairly low, at 5.6%, but clearly there’s a market – and where there’s a market, there’s a technology just waiting in the wings.

“The banks and the developers have tested and double-tested the security,” Richard explains, “and we can expect an explosion in new services in 2010, with people texting money to each other, shopping, and paying bills in an instant on their phones.”

Remember when a phone was just a phone?… That’s so last century.

For more information:

Here are Richard’s top tips for 2010:
10 new ways you’ll use your mobile phone to manage your money and shop

1. ‘Text a tenner’:
Lending a friend £10 or splitting and paying a restaurant bill with friends will be as straightforward as sending a text from your mobile phone. You’ll simply send money instantly from one phone to another by SMS.

2. Mobile Barcodes:
Shops, restaurants and theatres will text or email you tickets, vouchers and special offers in the form of barcodes which can be displayed on your mobile phone. And all you’ll do, to receive the benefit, is scan them on arrival.

3. Shopping by text:
Savvy shoppers will be able to buy items from advertising billboards, magazines or TV adverts simply by texting a code on the advert to the store – which will debit their bank account and mail out the desired product.

4. Holiday money:
No more running out of foreign currency or worrying about stolen or cloned credit cards. Travellers will be able to load up a pre-paid currency card from their mobile phone, lock and unlock their credit cards from their handset and receive text alerts to confirm when their card has been used overseas.

5. Text for a balance-check:
Queuing in the cold at an ATM or waiting for the next available call centre operator simply to find out your bank balance will become a thing of the past. You’ll just send a text from your mobile, and receive a reply containing your bank balance in seconds.

6. Money management on the move:
With a range of new smartphones (many featuring Google’s Android technology), joining Apple’s iPhone as the must-have gadget of 2010, people will be able to use bespoke applications to check their balance, pay bills and move money from account to account with just a few taps on a screen.

7. Overdraft text alerts:
There’ll be no more fear of plunging into the red, or worrying if your salary has been paid, with banks offering to text their customers when they approach their overdraft limit or when a payment has been made.

8. ‘Click and Pay’ bills:
No more paper bills or having to log into multiple websites: 2010 will see ‘billing by text’ for many people. Registered users will receive a text telling them how much their bill is and enabling them to just click to pay it.

9. Touch and pay goods and services:
Commuters in London already enjoy ‘touch and pay’ technology to travel around the capital. 2010 will see more people able to use the same technology, via their mobile phone, to buy a cup of coffee, a new book or a haircut.

10. Mobile Money goes global:
In many parts of the world, banks are few and far between, so the mobile phone is destined to transform the way millions of people look after their money, make payments, shop and trade. 2010 will see massive expansion in the coverage of these services throughout Africa, India and Asia.

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