News 2009

Nigeria: NiPost Intercepting Scam Mail and Opening Door to Financial Inclusion

21 December 2009, 234next.com

Mr. Baba, who made this known at the weekend while briefing the press on the activities of his organisation in 2009, also applauded the collaboration between NIPOST, the Serious Organised Crime Agency of Britain, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Nigerian Customs and other security agencies in intercepting and unmasking some scam mails before they are shipped out of the country…
… He said his organisation has already approached the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for support and approval to enable them provide a wide range of postal and allied financial services with effect from 2010.
Some of the services he said are being discussed include Pay@Post, SureSavings, Mobile Money and Home Delivery of migrant remittances.
Mr. Baba said the CBN is convinced that NIPOST is a strategic public institution with a network that could serve as a complementary access channel to the formal financial sector, particularly in the rural areas.
Read here the full article.


Trinidad and Tobago: TTPost Upgrades Billpay System
18 December 2009, Guardian

The T&T Postal Corporation (TTPost) launched the upgrade of its Billpay service. Colin Mars Vickerie, chief executive officer, Roraima Financial Services (RFS), said the TTPost Billpay upgrade is at its early stages. RFS has developed a Web-based money remittance service that caters to African and Caribbean citizens living in North America and Europe. “Today, we have processed in what we still consider as the early stage of the bill pay upgrade well over 170,000 transactions. I think the principals drew close to $60 million, and I am certain this is just the beginning,” Vickerie said.
Read the rest of the article.


Russia Eyes Postal Bank to Rival Sberbank

18 December 2009, Reuters

MOSCOW – Russia plans to secure the future of bankruptcy escapee Svyazbank by turning it into a postal bank with twice as many branches as current largest lender Sberbank.
The future of Svyazbank, which counts the Russian Post among its clients, was discussed at a recent board meeting of VEB, the government’s bank and the distributor of state anti-crisis funds.
Read the full news on Reuters. One billion dollars needed: follow-up news on Reuters.
More details in Russian language.


Ghana: Nokia Enters Into Banking

15 December 2009, ModernGhana.com, The Ghanaian Chronicle (From Stephen Odoi-Larbi, Cairo, Egypt)

Mobile phone manufacturing giants, Nokia, has declared its intention to enter into the banking industry. The scheme was necessitated as a result of the high level of unbanked people in emerging economies.
Dubbed “Nokia Money Solutions”, company officials say the initiative would seek to bridge the gap between the banked and unbanked in developing countries.
The project, according to officials of the company, would begin in 2010 in the Middle East and African (MEA) markets, which have a record high of unbanked people. Making the declaration in Cairo, Egypt, Alex Lambeek, Vice President, Nokia, said his outfit would build a number of money agencies in emerging markets, to address the problem…
… The Ghanaian market is not different from what Nokia is seeking to address, as there is a high percentage of unbanked people in the country. Out of a population of about 23 million, only 2.2 million people have bank accounts …
… The Daily Graphic newspaper, in October, reported an initiative being embarked upon by the Fidelity Bank to partner Ghana Post, which has offices across the country, to offer financial services to the unbanked and under-banked in the country.
Known as “Post Bank”, the concept would see Fidelity Bank rolling out 75 offices in Ghana Post premises, to provide financial services to the people. Commanding a 70% market share in the MEA, Nokia is strategising with its high expertise to provide similar financial services to help improve living standards in the MEA.
Read the full article on ModernGhana.com.
Also see: Global mobile money seen to reach $202 billion in 2012


Bangladesh: Post Office to launch money transfer by mobile phones
9 December 2009, BDNews24.com

According to BDNews24.com: “The government of Bangladesh will launch money transfer services through mobile phones at all post offices from June 2010. Officials told the parliamentary standing committee on post and telecommunications ministry on Wednesday that the postal department was set to run the e-banking services on an experimental basis through post offices in Comilla from January 2010.Once launched, people will be able to send money on mobile phones from all post offices.
The parliamentary body also finalised the draft of the Post Office Act, 1898 for launching of the service. The century old act was a barrier to start the e-banking services through post offices.”


The Business Secretary Lord Mandelson today opened a public consultation on new financial products and services that could be offered by the Post Office.
2 December 2009, BIS

Lord Mandelson said: “The Post Office is a great British institution that has been part of our economic and social fabric for well over three hundred years.“Growing financial services at the Post Office will help secure the future of the network and give people access to a full range of banking products at an institution they trust and value.“At a time when some banks and financial services companies are seeking to reduce face to face contact with customers, the Post Office stands out. It offers a trusted brand, and has more branches than the high street banks combined. It is ideally placed to bring banking services back to the heart of people’s communities.”The consultation outlines a number of financial services that the Post Office could offer, including:* Post Office Current Account – its own current account accessible from any of the over 11,500 branches across the country. * Post Office Children’s Savings Account – an account designed to encourage children to save through visits to their local Post Office. * Post Office Business Bank Accounts – currently the Post Office offers access to business accounts from a few High Street banks. It could offer increased access to business accounts from other providers, as well as its own business account. * A weekly budgeting account – many low income households are unable to take advantage of the savings that can be made by paying for services by direct debit. One way to tackle this problem is by offering a simple account that could ring-fence a proportion of income each week, and then pay out bills by direct debit on a monthly or quarterly basis. * A closer link between the Post Office and credit unions – it can be difficult to access credit union accounts when people are not in their local area. The local nature of the Post Office makes it ideally placed to allow credit union savers to access their accounts across the country. * Working to ensure all banks’ current accounts can be accessed at a Post Office – currently 60% of current accounts (around 25m accounts) can be accessed at Post Office branches. The Government wants more banks to allow their current accounts to be accessible at the Post Office.
The Government is also keen for the Post Office to be a more significant player in the mortgage market.
Lord Mandelson said: “I would like to see the Post Office at the forefront of the provision of good value mortgages across the UK. The Post Office has rapidly grown sales of its award-winning mortgages and is today announcing improved rates across its mortgages range.
 “Our consultation outlines exciting proposals, but I want people to have their say. This is an opportunity for local communities to tell us what they want and need from their Post Office. Information about the consultation will be available in all of the network’s 11,500 branches.”
The Post Office is one of the UK’s fastest growing financial services providers, and the country’s number one foreign currency provider. This consultation is the next step towards turning the Post Office into a leading player in financial services, offering banking products across its network of over 11,500 branches.
The consultation reinforces the Government’s commitment to a secure and sustainable future for the Post Office, following the decision in November 2008 to award it a new contract for the Post Office Card Account, and the investment of up to £1.7bn to 2011.
Interesting to read: Providing alternative banking solutions to low-income customers at the Post Office (by Consumer Focus)


MoneyGram International and the Italian Post Office Bring Mobile Money Transfer Service to Italy

23 November 2009, Minneapolis-Business Wire

MoneyGram International, a leading provider of global money transfer services, and Poste Italiane, the leading postal services operator in Italy, today announced an agreement that will enable Poste Italiane customers to initiate mobile money transfers to important markets around the globe, delivering faster, more convenient and flexible money transfer services. The agreement also provides for the launch of money transfer service via the Web.
Both mobile and online transfers allow consumers to send money virtually anytime and anywhere, without the need to go to a post office or retail location making cash available for friends and family in just 10 minutes. The mobile money transfer service enables Poste Italiane customers with a Poste Mobile SIM card associated with their BancoPosta account or PostePay debit card to transfer money via mobile phone. Poste Italiane customers who have home banking service will now also be able to transfer money via the Web at www.poste.it.
 “With the introduction of money transfer via mobile phone, Poste Italiane and MoneyGram offer a next-generation service that responds in a more dynamic, reliable and convenient way to the needs of migrants,” said Poste Italiane AD, Massimo Sarmi. “We are excited to combine Poste Italiane’s and MoneyGram’s unique technology platforms in Italy to introduce an innovative service for our growing number of money transfer customers.”
According to The Mobile World 2009, 93 percent of the approximately 4 million immigrants in Italy own a mobile phone. With the wide distribution of mobile phones around the world, offering money transfers via a mobile phone or the Internet provides customers with improved convenience.
 “We are delighted to expand our partnership with Poste Italiane and together be the first to offer money transfer services via mobile phone in Italy,” said Pamela H. Patsley, chairman and CEO of MoneyGram International. “MoneyGram is committed to providing customers with flexibility and choice in how they send and receive money. The service we are announcing today is a winning example of how our agent partners can use the MoneyGram technology to provide their online or mobile customers the benefits of an affordable, reliable and convenient money transfer send service without the need to go to a retail location.”
MoneyGram has 186,000 agent locations around the world and has been operating in Italy since 1996. It has an extensive network of agents and a major retail partnership with Poste Italiane, offering money transfer service in over 10,000 post office locations across the country.


Thailand Post could be microfinance player
17 November 2009, The Nation (Thailand)

The Finance Ministry and Bank of Thailand see the potential of Thailand Post, which offers postal services, to become a player in microfinance, a key channel under financial industry reform.
 “Thailand Post can partner with banks and do this business,” said Bandid Nijathaworn, deputy central bank governor.
Microfinance is one of the key areas that phase II of the financial sector master plan approved by the Cabinet last week wants to promote so small businesses and low-income earners can gain access to financial services.
But the question is, who wants to enter such a business with its high risk and lack of background information on borrowers? Commercial banks do not do this business due to higher risk.
Thailand Post’s advantage is that it has many service points throughout the country, Bandid said. However, this state-owned enterprise does not specialize in banking so if it wants to enter microfinance it has to tie up with financial institutions.
Finance officials also said Thailand Post and other new players could enter the business by applying for a licence from the ministry and central bank. The ministry wants to control informal lenders that often charge exorbitant interest rates. It also plans this month to launch a debt-refinancing programme for customers of underground lenders.
There are 1,177 post offices and 3,321 licensed post offices in the country.
Bandid thinks there is more room to expand microfinance since state-owned banks and several savings cooperatives have limited capacity for lending.
The Government Savings Bank (GSB) and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives already offer microcredit to small business, farmers and lower-income individuals.
Vorapol Socatiyanurak, vice chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said he had advocated Thailand Post to go into the microfinance business like Japan Post.
Japan Post, a government-owned corporation, has been running postal and package delivery, banking and life-insurance businesses. It is claimed to be largest holder of personal savings in Japan with about US$2 trillion (Bt66 trillion).
Thailand Post workers could be retrained to do microfinance, he said.
Thanong Bidaya, a former finance minister, said GSB’s microfinance operation, known as the People’s Bank scheme, was not yet fully successful.
 “Operating costs and interest-rate charges are still high as well as non-performing loans,” he said.
Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a micro-lender, has proven more successful due to lower operating costs, higher rate of debt repayment and its own financial sustainability, he said.
Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, was awarded the Noble peace prize for his ability to assist the poor to access credit.
Lersak Chuladesa, GSB president and CEO, said the bank would continue its People’s Bank scheme, but would not need partners.
About 400,000 people have accessed this kind of loan, taking out an average Bt30,000-Bt50,000, he said. The interest rate is 0.5 per cent per month for loans up to Bt30,000 and 0.75 per cent for up to Bt100,000.


UPU-AFI workshop on financial inclusion and postal banking

11 November 2009, UPU (Switzerland)

About 150 postal experts, policy makers, UPU delegates, financial regulators, central bankers and representatives from the banking industry were at UPU headquarters on 9 and 10 November 2009 to look at how the postal network can help the world’s poor gain access to financial services.
Joëlle Toledano, from France’s postal regulator (ARCEP) and chair of the UPU’s postal economics project group, said that studies have shown that the viability of postal services depends on variety and that financial services represent an opportunity for Posts. Furthermore, providing financial services through the postal network dispels the myth that postal physical services have no role to play in an electronic age.
In a video message, Jacques Attali, president of PlaNet Finance, said the postal network’s proximity to where the poor live was ideal for extending financial inclusion.
Gabriela Braun, from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), said that financial inclusion leads to jobs, health, education and social cohesion. The AFI’s goal is to bring 50 million people currently living on less than two dollars a day into the financial fold by 2012.
AFI’s Ernesto Aguirre said that the world is entering a new era for helping the poor access financial services. “We have a great opportunity for improving financial access through a combination of appropriate public policy and regulation, business cases and new technologies,” he said.
Brazil’s case is being examined thoroughly in the discussions. Through a partnership between this Post and one of the country’s largest private banks – Bradesco – previously underserved people have opened almost 9 million accounts at post offices since 2002. In Brazil, one third of municipalities had previously no banking agencies, leaving 45 million people without access to financial services, according to the Central Bank.
Their trust, their unparalleled reach and 150 years’ experience in providing savings services all make the Posts an ideal provider of financial services to the poor. This is what the joint UPU-Alliance for Financial Inclusion workshop also revealed.
Joëlle Toledano said the workshop clearly showed that Posts everywhere can play a major role in financial inclusion. “With examples coming from many developing countries, it’s clear that Posts can bring financial services closer to the population.”
Countries, such as Brazil, China, India, Azerbaijan, South Africa and others presented their business models and policies of opening up financial access. Speakers and attendees included representatives from Posts, central banks and non-governmental organizations.
Rodrigo Figueiró de Andrade, from the Brazilian Post’s Banco Postal, which has brought financial services to millions of people, said that all countries have a forgotten population. Posts can capitalize on the fact that these people have a close relationship to the postal service. “They respect the Post more than banks.”
A central banker like Sandip Ghose of the Reserve Bank of India, agreed that the Post is a trusted party among the poor. “When the Post sends a letter carrier on his bike into an Indian village, the villagers are happy to see him.” He added, however, that there were still gaps in bringing financial inclusion to the poorest of the poor. “This workshop is very important for filling in those gaps. I am happy to listen and to take lessons back to India, where a large amount of poverty still exists,” he said.
Tamara Cook from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said that the conference presented the Posts’ case for providing financial services to the poor.
 “Clearly, post offices can provide savings accounts to the everyday man. I am here to learn about access and affordability of these services.” She added that the Posts are often overlooked when cross-sectoral players considered the global issue of financial inclusion and the workshop was an important way of redressing this.
Salao Aboubakar from the banking commission of Central Africa (COBAC) said that financial inclusion was an important issue for its member countries. These have 45 million inhabitants of which only four per cent have access to banking services.
 “For us, the postal network should participate in bringing financial services if they are functioning well,” he said. “This workshop has served to re-launch the debate on financial inclusion in our countries,” he added.
The German Technical Cooperation’s Michael Roth said he was attending to better understand the postal network and learn about the UPU. “There are many different approaches presented here and the workshop is a compendium of best practices,” he said.
The presentations made during the UPU-AFI conference on financial inclusion are now available in the “UPU-AFI Conference” page.

*** Permanent highlight: Savings and the Poor (The Economist, 11th March 2010)

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