The pace of innovation in financial services has greatly picked up over the last seven years. Traditional players such as banks, schemes and money transfer operators have been joined by non-traditional players such as Samsung, RIM, Google, Amazon, Apple and, of course, communications service providers (CSPs).
The balance of power in the mobile banking, payments and transfers areas is changing and brands are being built and broken right now. While mobile brings a new dimension to payments, successful strategies really need to embrace the concept of ‘digital money.’
I recently came across Shift Thought, a unique research and management consultancy based in the UK with a solution that any digital money player would find invaluable. The company maintains what it describes as a ‘constantly updated, perspective neutral and infinitely navigable knowledge base of the digital money ecosystem in terms of markets, initiatives and players across multiple industries, across 200+ countries and territories.’
Shift Thought advocates the digital money way of thinking as opposed to a narrower mobile device focussed approach. This implies looking across multiple services relating to digital money, including mobile money, branchless banking, mobile payment, online payment, cash networks and more to let you know how these are developing in a market.
It defines Digital Money as the digitisation, storage, transmission and conversion of value, distinguished by a focus on the integration of multiple services across multiple channels and geographies, which creates consumer loyalty driven by cost, availability and consumer experience.
The global digital money ecosystem is complex and rapidly evolving. The key challenges for organisations in navigating and exploiting this new ecosystem are the multiplicity of perspectives (including financial institutions, regulators, mobile operators and payment hubs), the dynamism in the ecosystem, the diverse and changing regulatory environments and the variety of services over multiple channels.
Organisations with ambitions in this space must navigate a vast body of constantly changing knowledge, to be able to ask the right questions at the right time and get the right answers. This requires exploration, best supported by a navigable portal, and analysis, best supported by comprehensive reports.
Although I am told there are over 5000 company profiles (complete with partnerships, initiatives, latest data from annual reports), and over 1,500 Digital Money initiatives described, it only takes a few minutes to get what you want. For instance I used the China profile which gave me a unique insight into how the online – mobile – offline convergence is shaping around payments.
It also shares knowledge through their unique concept of ‘Viewports’. Viewports offer the portability of a report with the navigability of a portal. Their most recent “Digital Money in China 2013 Viewport” provides analysis and insights that would be valuable to any global company seeking to win in the Digital Money space. Additionally, eco-system tours, snapshots and “Just for you” reports and services are available.
Anybody wanting to enter the digital money space be they banks, mobile operators or third party providers will need to understand the strategies of other new entrants, the partnerships forming in the market and the groups behind local initiatives, not to mention the regulatory frameworks and laws.
As mobile operators, in particular, look to enter a market sector they are not familiar with, this type of knowledge is not only essential, it could be a lifesaver. Amassing the knowledge from scratch would also be time-consuming and costly. For operators with properties across numerous international markets the issues multiply but such a potentially profitable space cannot be ignored, especially with respect to emerging and unbanked markets.
The Shift Thought Digital Money portal maps this complex ecosystem as shown in the figure and enables precisely the kind of navigation and exploration tools that organisations of different kinds require. It also has blogs, recent news and a Digital Money Timeline that are available free to visitors, with enhanced content available when you register. Registration is a simple process that only takes seconds, and essentially all I had to provide was a working email address. Shift Thought then provisioned a gold pass to the portal, for me to get an inside look at the premium content as a beta user. The beta pass provided me access to a treasure trove of information.