Breathe… A Tribute to the Financial Pioneers

This year is the ten year anniversary of mobile's entry in the world of financial services. The past ten years has seen the industry push through the phases of experimentation, isolated adoption and the fight for self sufficient viability. Conceived in the unbanked territories of Africa, mobile technologies first primary role was that of an enabler that stretch beyond the boundaries of traditional banks and financial institutions, to reach the underhand and unbanked. What happened would put two industries on a collision course of customer ownership, banking and telecommunications. Many would credit Safaricom's M-Pesa as the first, but prior to M-Pesa's success in Kenya, Celpay in Zambia, G-Cash in the Philippines and Wizzit in South Africa were making inroads. Blue sky dreams lead a hype driven outlook, banks begun to feel the pressure of disintermediation, as mobile operators on multiple continents launched their own flavour of financial services.Since these early days the evolving industry has had to frantically fight for its survival amongst the absence of matured profitable businesses to justify the ongoing innovation and development costs. The industry attracted only those most passionate about the cause, as they endured complex projects and intense travel schedules in the face of constant criticism from the incumbent financial institutions and regulators.

Recent years have seen a handful of banks launch services, under innovative new business models, such as Wing by ANZ in Cambodia, bKash by Brac Bank in Bangladesh and Barclay's in India. With the banks onboard, regulators around the world began to see the value in agency and branchless banking models, which opened the door for dozens of new operations around the world. Then came 2011.

This year we witnessed major global organisations make large strategic moves, bringing globally recognisable brands and diluting previous doubts about mobile's viability, thus setting the stage for one of the most exciting years ahead. 2012 will see services go mainstream, bridging the gaps between traditional financial eco-systems and the closed loop eco-systems built over the past 10 years. As mobile penetration continues to rapidly grow in all corners of the globe, the markets ability to leverage the mobile network as a part of the financial ecosystem strengthens. Lessons learned from developing and developed markets will collide as individuals that have endured the hard slog to today begin to share knowledge with a broader more engaged audience and workforce.

Gone are the days of frantically trying to justify our existence. Those who don't listen now will be left behind. No doubt, that in years to come 2011 will be seen as a critical tipping point in the evolution of financial services. Those who made moves in 2011 will be the leaders of tomorrow, while those who haven't will be left wondering how they missed the boat.

Now is the time that I'd like to recognise the efforts of the industries pioneers, those that have helped drive the establishment of this evolution. While names are not necessary, I know that these individuals have worked diligently, passionately and exhaustively over the years. Many of which I have had the pleasure of working beside, or shared stories with over the years. I commend your efforts… and encourage you to take this moment to just breathe… reflect and soak up all that you have achieved. The road ahead will still be hard work, but you can rest assured, the industry now has mainstream validation and you are the individuals that carry all the wisdom into this exciting new world.

Congratulations on a job well done