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Amdocs' Mobile Wallet Takes Aim at Unbanked

Amdocs is partnering with the State Bank of India to bring mobile banking capabilities to the country's millions of unbanked.

Amdocs, a global customer experience solutions provider for the telecom industry, announced today that it is launching a white-label mobile wallet solution focused on the world's unbanked and underbanked population. It also announced a partnership with the State Bank of India, Triotech, and the Indian telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. to offer the solution in India, with the goal of reaching of 75 million unbanked and underbanked households there.

The solution enables customers to perform a full range of banking and payment capabilities, including requesting a microloan, paying bills, and making in-store payments with credit, debit, or prepaid cards. Much of the technology behind the solution was built on Amdocs' acquisition this year of Utiba, which launched its first mobile commerce solution in the Philippines in 2004.

More than 2.5 billion people in the world are unbanked, according to the World Bank. Patrick McGrory, division president of Amdocs emerging offerings, said it sees a massive opportunity to bring banks and telecoms together to serve that segment, especially since many of the world's unbanked have a mobile phone.

"It's difficult for banks to reach this population. Serving them comes at a cost point where most banks can't reach them. They just can't [afford to] build branches in parts of rural India," McGrory said. "Meanwhile, the telcos have these huge distribution networks, and they're used to low-value transactions," since they process so many top-ups for prepaid phones.

Amdocs' solution already has 50 implementations around the world, with both bank and telecom partners, and a combined 650 million subscribers.

In addition to the solution, Amdocs Mobile Financial Services will include a dedicated Center of Excellence to provide managed services-like support to enable fast delivery of changes and integrations. McGrory said Amdocs is also launching a business accelerator practice to conduct research on the challenges specific to each market for delivering mobile financial services to the unbanked and underbanked.

The project in India "is one of the largest financial inclusion projects in the world," he said, and it follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise this year to bring banking services to the country's entire population. The project will allow the State Bank of India and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (the country's largest mobile network operator) to offer a mobile wallet to any customer of any mobile operator in India.

Amdocs is looking at opportunities to use its solution to target the unbanked and underbanked in developed markets, as well, including the US, McGrory said. According to FDIC research released this year, 7.7% of US housholds are unbanked, and 20% are underbanked.

[For more on the US unbanked population, check out: FDIC: Percentage of US Unbanked Households Decreasing]

"There isn't a big difference between the US underbanked population and the underbanked population overseas," McGrory said. "They're dealing in cash and getting charged exorbitant rates for payday loans and international remittances." However, the US market is less amenable to the type of bank-telecom partnership that Amdocs is using in India, because of friction between different players over who should own the customer.

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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