A Billion Mobile Bankers?

Someone recently forecast that, by 2017, there will be one billion mobile banking consumers across the globe.

Having forecast mobile banking consumers myself (just US, not globally), I’m interested in these projections as a sanity check against my own numbers.

Here’s my quick and dirty analysis to see if the 1 billion number is reasonable.

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The Population Reference Bureau projects that world population will reach ~7.5 billion people by 2017, ~80% of whom will be in lesser-developed countries. The PRB also estimates that, worldwide, roughly 30% of the population is under the age of 15.

These points are relevant because: 1) the unbanked rate is much higher in lesser developed countries than developed countries (~75% vs. 10-15%), and 2) I’m assuming that people under the age of 15 don’t have checking (or prepaid) accounts.

These assumptions/projections leaves us with .95 billion banked adults in the developed countries, and 1.05 billion banked adults in the lesser-developed countries, for a total of 2 billion banked adults, worldwide. For mobile bankers to hit 1 billion, the adoption rate for mobile banking would have to be 50%.

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There is another possible scenario where the total can more easily get to 1 billion: A change in the unbanked rate.

With the growth of prepaid accounts and other alternative types of accounts, if the unbanked rate in lesser-developed countries drops to 50%, than there would be approximately 2.1 billion banked adults in those countries, or 3.05 billion banked adults worldwide.

For mobile bankers to hit 1 billion by 2017, the adoption rate would only have to be 33%.

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Bottom line: The key variable in determining whether or not there will be 1 billion mobile bankers by the end of 2017 is the unbanked rate. The global rate of smartphone adoption rate is high and will certainly continue to be. In addition, the demographics of some large countries — who can make or break the forecast — like China and India skew to younger consumers who are more likely to adopt and use mobile technologies.

A more important number is this: How many newly-banked people (in both developed and lesser-developed countries) will be mobile-only (or at least, predominately-mobile)?

[Note: You might be thinking, wait, shouldn't that be "predominantly"? No, not necessarily]

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5 thoughts on “A Billion Mobile Bankers?

  1. “In a world of seven billion people, there are six billion mobile-phone subscriptions. In Colombia, Egypt and Indonesia, the mobile penetration rate has surpassed 90%; in Brazil, Russia and Vietnam, it’s more than 100%.”

    — Wired Magazine

    http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/01/ideas-bank/dumb-phones-are-the-future-of-advertising

    Your closing thoughts are spot on. Banking will come to the developing world, the unbanked, the underbanked and even those in undeveloped countries via mobile devices. It’s not like how we see the narrative play out in the developed world, where people are already banking customers who then add mobile banking as a service. For the unbanked in undeveloped countries, the mobile phone will serve as the gateway to entire range of services they previously could not access — banking being among them.

    The “1 billion mobile bankers” number isn’t a story about the explosion of mobile banking. It’s a story about how mobile phones are generally changing the lifestyles and living standards of those beyond the developed world.

  2. Ron,
    With apologies for not knowing, can you tell me if there is a standard definition that you (and others) use when you say someone is a “mobile banked”? Does it mean that one has merely downloaded a banking app (but doesn’t necessarily ever use it), or does one have to check account balances, conduct a transfer, make a payment, etc? Just curious how it’s defined.
    Thanks.

      • @RonS: As far as I know, anyone who visits an e-tailer’s website from their mobile browser is treated as a mobile shopper – just that over 90% of them are treated as non-converting, being people who don’t buy anything from the website. If we take the liberty of applying the same yardstick to mobile banking, anyone who visits a bank’s – any bank’s – Internet Banking URL from their mobile browser, views content (e.g. forex rates, checking products, etc.) without logging on or even having an account with the said bank, should be treated as a mobile banking consumer. If the ecommerce analogy holds good for ebanking, (a) Will unbanked-to-banked rate matter so much in arriving at the count of mobile banking consumers? (b) Any idea what is the count of mobile banking consumers worldwide as on date?

  3. Pingback: Banking Section: A Billion Mobile Bankers? « Hansa-Cequity's Knowledge Centre

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