GSMA Mobile Money Leadership Forum convenes financial regulators and the mobile industry

The first annual Mobile Money Leadership Forum was held in Barcelona on 25 June, 2009. To our knowledge this was the first event of this size designed to promote dialogue between financial regulators and the mobile industry. The event was attended by over 70 participants from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

In my opening remarks, I emphasized that “we don’t have to agree, but we can all listen to one another”. What followed was a great deal of productive dialogue. The group took advantage of this unique opportunity to pursue their curiosity about the topic of mobile money and engage in some frank and open discussions. There were are a few key themes and statements that I would like to highlight from the discussion..

Unpacking mantras. The group had a strong desire to explore just what phrases like ‘proportionality’ and ‘financial inclusion’ really mean. I saw a lot of value in discussing the practical implications of these mantras and the role that they actually play in regulating mobile money. Further, hosting this discussion at a global level enabled participants from one market to evaluate the attitude and approach used in other markets.

Recognizing the value of dialogue. Operators shared experiences engaging with their regulators and noted that when dialogue takes place, learning goes both ways. As one participant put it: ‘several years ago, our regulator taught us about the need to identify customers. This requirement is now common in telecom and we were effectively prepared for this change when it arrived based on our early experience in mobile money. Our regulator also required that we monitor all transactions and report on what is happening to satisfy AML requirements. To satisfy this requirement, we ended up creating a very powerful management information system that now enables us to make better business decisions. Likewise, we helped our regulator understand some commercial implications of regulation. For example, the relationship between stringency of KYC and ability to scale, and the impact of account balance limits on targeting prospective high value customers.’

Above all, both operators and regulators emphasized a desire to keep dialogue open.

‘Identify the risk and regulate it proportionately’. This phrase was initially used during the Mobile Money Summit, but panellists and participants returned to it during the Leadership Forum. The phrase is simple, but it effectively communicates the approach used in Kenya – both prior to and following the launch of M-PESA – and could be considered as an effective philosophy for regulating mobile money.

I would like to sincerely thank the regulators and mobile operators who participated. I look forward to seeing you again next year.

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