EC states case for m-banking

20 Jul 2011

The European Commission has shed light on the mobile banking opportunity in the region, revealing that up to 30 million consumers aged 18 or over currently don’t have access to basic banking and payment facilities.

To date, mobile banking has been reckoned to be the preserve of emerging markets, where there are simply higher numbers of un-banked consumers compared to developed markets. However, the EC figures suggest the region could be ripe for similar mobile money services.

The EC revealed the number of un-banked consumers in a call for member states to make basic banking services available to all consumers, regardless of their financial situation or home state. Michel Barnier, internal market and services commissioner, states that access to bank accounts “has the potential to improve the lives of millions of Europeans,” as well as being a priority in the Commission’s Single Market Act.

“It is important to put an end to practices that exclude people from access to such a basic and essential service, and thus enable them to participate fully in the society they live in,” Barnier adds.

While the Commission makes no direct reference to mobile banking – member states will be left to decide how to implement the scheme – the specifications for accounts certainly leave the door open for mobile versions. The EC specifies that basic bank accounts must allow consumers to deposit and withdraw cash, purchase goods online, pay bills, and transfer funds.

The latter two elements alone are very similar to existing mobile payments schemes established in emerging markets, like M-PESA.

Demand for mobile banking is on the rise in Europe. Recent comScore figures reveal that 8.5% of mobile subscribers in the big five Western European countries accessed their bank accounts via their mobile phone during the first quarter. The firm credits the figure to growing smartphone ownership and related applications, which have improved consumer confidence in mobile banking services.

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