Digital wallets have revolutionized the financial services industry by providing instant and convenient payment to consumers. In many countries, digital wallets have democratized payments, by enabling everyone – unbanked or banked to use these services. Consequently, digital wallets have seen mass adoption globally. According to Juniper Research, there were 2.6 billion unique digital wallet users globally in 2020, which will increase to 4.4 billion by 2025.
In emerging economies of Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America, digital wallets were introduced with the primary objective of increasing financial inclusion. The digital wallets met this objective to a great extent by bringing unbanked people into the formal financial ecosystem through pervasive digital channels like mobile phones and today in many countries digital wallet penetration far exceeds bank penetration. Digital wallets have provided easy-to-use, quick and cost effective money transfers, payments, savings and micro-loans services to the unbanked people, fulfilling their basic financial needs. With the key objective of financial inclusion on track, digital wallets are now evolving from financial inclusion to financial enrichment. Digital wallet providers are now moving beyond basic payment use cases to more sophisticated investment use cases such as stock trading, crypto asset trading, gold trading etc. In this article, we will look at some of the recently launched investment service on popular digital wallets from three continents.
Colombia: MOVII Enabling Crypto Asset Purchase and Sale
Government of Colombia’s Ministry of Finance & Public Credit in 2014 introduced ‘Financial Inclusion Law’, under which it allowed the creation of Companies Specialized in Electronic Payments and Deposits (Sociedades Especializadas en Depósitos y Pagos Electrónicos’ abbreviated as SEDPE). The objective of SEDPEs is to increase financial inclusion by enabling unbanked people to open low-balance financial account quickly through digital channels like the mobile phone with minimum documents.
Leveraging Financial Inclusion Law, the first SEDPE launched in Colombia was MOVII in 2018. MOVII is Colombia’s first completely digital wallet where everything from customer on-boarding to payments is done digitally using a mobile phone. MOVII allows anyone in Colombia over the age of 12 to download MOVII mobile app and open a digital wallet account to transfer money, get loans, receive financial-aid, pay bills, make merchant payments, recharge mobile-connection and buy digital-content etc. MOVII has over 2 million people using its digital wallet.
In April 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia, Government of Colombia partnered with MOVii to disburse solidarity income (financial-aid) to economically vulnerable families. Many of these economically vulnerable families were unbanked. Hence Government of Colombia selected MOVii as it allows economically vulnerable families to quickly open zero-cost, affordable, no-frills financial mobile wallet account digitally using mobile phone, without the need queuing-up at physical bank branches, which could potentially lead to spread of COVID. More than 200,000 economically vulnerable families are receiving solidarity income of COP160,000 (US$ 43) every month since April 2020 through MOVII.
MOVII did not want to restrict it to the financially underserved segment only. It wants to offer a diverse service portfolio meeting financial needs of various consumer segments. Crypto transactions have gained immense popularity in Colombia, with the country ranked amongst the leaders in this field. Hence, in July 2021, MOVII launched first of its kind crypto transaction service. MOVII has partnered with Crypto exchange ‘Bitpoint’ on which consumers can buy or sell Crypto assets. MOVII is also partnering with another Crypto exchange called ‘Panda’.
Consumers need to make an account at Bitpoint exchange which can be loaded with money through MOVII wallet. For loading money into Crypto exchange account, consumers have to log in to MOVII app, select Crypto option, select the Crypto Exchange (Bitpoint or Panda), enter the amount and confirm the transaction. With money in their Bitpoint account, consumers can purchase crypto assets.
Consumers can also transfer money from Bipoint account to MOVII wallet. To do this, consumers have to log in to Bitpoint exchange account, choose the wallet option, go to the USD currency and click on withdraw. Then they have to select MOVii as means of withdrawal, enter registered mobile number and the amount to withdraw and finally confirm the transaction.
Uganda: MTN Mobile Money Facilitating Stock Trading
In Uganda, digital wallets or mobile money services like MTN Mobile Money (MTN MoMo) and Airtel Money were introduced in 2009, with the aim to financially include the unbanked. Now, more than a decade later, 77% of Uganda’s adults have an active mobile money account, compared to 43% of adults with a bank deposit account [Source: Bank of Uganda Financial Inclusion Indicator Jun-19], indicating that the financial inclusion objective has been achieved to a great extent. Thanks to these digital wallets, today, even unbanked consumers in Uganda can do any financial transaction from their mobile phone ranging from making domestic and international money transfer to savings and loans and from paying bills and merchant to receiving salary and financial-aid.
The digital wallets in Uganda are evolving further with the addition of new use case like stock trading. In September 2021, Uganda Security Exchange (USE) partnered with MTN Mobile Money to digitalize Securities Central Depository (SCD) account opening process. Anyone who wishes to invest in the stock market in Uganda must open a SCD account. SCD account is an electronic account on which securities are held and any transactions regarding trades or transfers on the stock market are effected on this account. MTN Mobile Money customers with a valid Ugandan National Identification card can open a SCD account from their mobile phone through the My MTN App or by dialling *165*65# USSD Code and following the prompts. After successful SCD account opening, customers will receive a SCD account number using which customers will be able to buy stocks, bonds and share and pay for it via MTN Mobile Money service. In October 2021, MTN launched its IPO, which consumers can apply and pay through MTN Mobile Money.
The mobile-based SCD account opening and stock trading process is simpler and convenient compared to existing processes and is accessible through all mobile phones – smartphones as well as feature phones. The service has democratized stock trading in Uganda as even unbanked and everyday Ugandans can easily open a SCD account easily and remotely using mobile phone and subsequently invest in any of the companies and debt instruments listed on the USE. This will boost participation of individuals and small investors in Uganda’s stock market.
India: Google Pay Providing Gold Trading
In India, digital wallets like Google Pay, PhonePe and Paytm, running on the rails of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and QR Codes, have digitized cash transfers and payments. Today, many merchants in the country, ranging from popular retail chains to local grocery stores and road-side kiosks accept payments digitally through these wallets. While the digital wallets have focused mainly on the bill and merchant payments and money transfers use-cases which forms majority of the transactions, they have also introduced investment use cases like gold trading which is closely aligned to the local traditions.
Gold is core to local culture and traditions in India. People consider it auspicious to buy Gold on festivals and gift it during weddings and rituals. People also buy Gold as an investment instrument, which can be used in difficult times or during occasions like weddings which requires big expenditure. Due to these reasons, India is the second largest consumer of Gold in the world.
Building upon the centrality of gold in Indian culture, Google Pay introduced ‘Gold Locker’ service for Gold trading. Google Pay partnered with bullion refiner MMTC-PAMP India to allow Google Pay users to buy and sell gold through the digital wallet app. Google Pay users can buy 99.99% 24 karat gold anytime instantly at the Gold price shown in the app. The Gold price is refreshed every few minutes and displayed in the app. The Gold purchased is stored on behalf of the user, by MMTC-PAMP, in secure vaults and can be sold at any time through the app at the latest price. This is usually referred to as ‘Digital Gold’. Initially the consumers also had the option of getting the gold delivered to them in physical form, however, the delivery service was stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers also have the option to gift the gold to family and friends.
With addition of use-cases like stock, crypto-asset and gold trading, digital wallets are not just democratizing investment services, but also becoming an appealing financial service to all consumer segments. This will further lead to the growth of digital wallets both in terms of customers and transactions.