Reaching half of the market: women and mobile money – the example of Nationwide Microbank in PNG

This is the second of a series of blogs that provide a deep-dive into mobile money services who proved to be successful in increasing the mobile money penetration amongst women in their respective markets. This blog series builds upon the recently released report ‘Reaching half of the market: Women and mobile money’. This blog was co-written with Claire Scharwatt. 

With its mountainous terrain and scattered islands, Papua New Guinea is home to 8 million people, 85% of which live in rural areas. While only 15-20% of the population has access to financial services, about 70% of the population is estimated to have a mobile phone: this suggests a huge need and potential of mobile money [1]. Nationwide Microbank grasped this opportunity in 2012, when it launched MiCash, with the clear objective of banking the unbanked. MiCash was initially marketed as a savings product, and the uptake within a few months from launch was relatively high: in June 2012, 70% of MiCash customers were not previous customers of Nationwide, highlighting the need for the savings product.

Thanks to the anonymity and privacy offered by the mobile money service and to the ease of its KYC requirements, the uptake of MiCash amongst women has been very positive: to date, women constitute 38% of MiCash customer base and tend to use it primarily for savings purposes. Research has shown that income earned by women results in different expenditure patterns compared to men – women tend to reinvest up to 90% of their earnings in the family well-being, compared to 30-40% of men [2] “It’s proof of the ‘Multiplier effect’ of women banking”, said Tony Westaway, Managing Director of Nationwide Microbank.

Below, we explore a set of interesting tactics that have allowed Natiowide Microbank to drive usage of MiCash amongst women and that can be replicated in other markets.

Using financial literacy as a way to onboard new customers

In order to raise awareness and attract more customers to MiCash, Nationwide has heavily invested in Below-the-Line marketing campaigns, visiting villages, plantations and districts to educate women on financial services and on the use of mobile money. This includes a women-targeted financial literacy training, at the end of which, attendees have the opportunity to open a mobile money account.

While in PNG, as in many other markets, it takes time and resources to train new users in using mobile money, this approach not only allowed Nationwide to register more customers, but also resulted in higher customer active rates. In fact, over 90% of MiCash accounts are active on a monthly basis, which is much higher than the global average of 30% [3].

Training here requires persistence and constant messaging; you are not going to get changes overnight,” said Tony Westaway, Managing Director, Nationwide Microbank.

Choosing the right ambassador to increase awareness

Another tactic that has allowed Nationwide Microbank to raise awareness about MiCash has been using active mobile money customers to educate their peers about the use and benefits of mobile money. Specifically, enabling peer-to-peer learning about how to use mobile money was crucial to Nationwide Microbank to increase the penetration of MiCash amongst women. For this purpose, Nationwide has been taking women from south of the capital Port Moresby, who are more “active” when it comes to using MiCash, to the ‘impact’ villages north of the capital, where mobile money was not being used, to teach them about mobile money.

Another approach that has been tested was using university students to teach technical literacy in the villages. However, this approach was not very successful, as in PNG people tend to trust elders, village leaders and socio-economic “peers”, although most of these people have never had any schooling. 

Partnering with local institutions to recruit more female agents

Nationwide recognises that women customers tend to be more inclined and comfortable in registering with female agents than male, and are therefore starting to recruit more women. Specifically, Nationwide is partnering with UN Women in Port Moresby to introduce mobile money to female market vendors (the project is now in the pilot stage) and leveraging existing cultural practices by working with women’s groups.

As we continue to gather more insights on the topic, we encourage you to read the full publication, and to share with us any tactic that you have implemented in order to drive penetration of mobile money amongst women by emailing the authors [email protected] and [email protected]

Download the report “Reaching half of the market: Women and mobile money”

[1] Deepening Financial Inclusion for Women in the Pacific Islands,

[2] For more information please visit

[3] GSMA MMU State of the Industry Report 2013,