My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why NCB dropping Remittance Agent MoneyGram means Mobile Money, Remittance by September 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why NCB dropping Remittance Agent MoneyGram means Mobile Money, Remittance by September 2014

“This decision was taken after further review of our business models across the NCB Group, as we aim to ensure that we employ a solid corporate governance structure and operate within a robust compliance framework. We thank our customers for their business and anticipate that they will appreciate and support the action taken”

NCB in a press release relating to their cutting ties with the MoneyGram Services as it relates to Remittances on Monday January 6th 2014

The News has rocked the Financial World since the bomb dropped. This as NCB (National Commercial Bank) has decided for some strange reason to exit the Remittance Service as reported on Monday January 6th 2014 in the articles “NCB quits Remittance business”, published Monday, January 06, 2014 4:53 PM, The Jamaica Observer and “NCB to exit Remittance business”, Published Monday January 6, 2014 3:46 pm, The Jamaica Gleaner.

The NCB News relating to Remittances by far takes the cake. This as they’ve also severed ties with MoneyGram, the main agent for Remittances as reported in the article “MoneyGram network shrinks with NCB exit”, published Wednesday January 8, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner.

NCB’s move to scale back Remittances may be related to a possible launch of a new Three-in-one Prepaid Debit Card geared at Mobile Money, E-Commerce and Remittances.

The cutting of ties with MoneyGram Services becomes effective on the following dates for the following services:

1.      Wednesday January 22 2014 for NCB Remittance Services UK
2.      Monday March 31 for NCB Remittance Services Jamaica

The only Remittance that will continue from NCB via MoneyGram Services will be the Remittance of pension payments.

These decisions are all is apparently due to pressure from their financial partners with regards to issues relating to Money Laundering, Financing Terrorism and also the possibility that their services are aiding the continuation of the Lotto Scam in Jamaica as noted in “NCB cuts Remittance services”, published Tuesday, January 07, 2014, The Jamaica Observer.

The Lotto Scam especially was a strong deciding factor; US$300 million (J$27 billion) annually is the estimated Take home salary of Scammers according to the ISCF (Island Special Constabulary Force) and JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) aka the Jamaican Police. Thus it cannot be ignored as easily.

NCB Under Pressure - Negative impact on Mobile Money as the exit the lucrative Remittance Services

It must been a considerable amount of pressure for them to leave a business that accounts for almost US$2.2 billion in Foreign Exchange Remittances into the island. Granted GraceKennedy Remittances Services, which is really a Franchise of Western Union, handles 50% of all Remittances as stated in the article “GraceKennedy responsible for half of Jamaica's Remittances, says Wehby,” published Sunday November 25, 2012, The Jamaica Gleaner

But rather than cut such a lucrative Golden Goose, they’re merely scaled back their level of entrenchment. GraceKennedy since February 2013 has closed some of its Western Union outlets and has made it a mandatory requirement that persons transacting business to produce a Money Transfer Control Number to collect their Cash as stated in “New mandatory requirement at Western Union”, Published Monday February 4, 2013 8:26 am, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Many watching this are thus confused as to why as their actions will affect their ability to effectively compete in the Mobile Money Business, now that JCCUL (Jamaica Co-Operative Credit Union League) and Mozido Jamaica as their technology partner has been granted a license to operate as stated in my blog article entitled “JCCUL get's approval from BOJ to launch their JCUES Mobile Money Platform - JCUES Mobile Money Wolverine marks the Kick-Ass 2 beginning of a Cashless Society”.

The real Money-maker in Mobile Money isn’t just inter- and intra-parish Money transfers without a Bank account but Remittance Transfers for direct and easy spending, the eventual aim of the JCCUL’s JCUES (Jamaica Credit Union e-Payment Services).

GraceKennedy too has plans to enter this lucrative Mobile Money Sector and so too does Supreme Ventures as stated in the article “GK goes after Mobile Money”, published Wednesday, May 22, 2013 BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter, The Jamaica Observer and “SVL Boss Sees Growth Prospects In E-Wallets”, Published Friday July 26, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner respectively.

NCB has the innovation Edge – Possibly a push into E-Commerce to legitimize Remittances

However I may have an incorrect perspective. It’s good to note that the NCB hasn’t totally exited Remittances, choosing like GraceKennedy to scale back their involvement. They still will do Remittances for Retired folk.

Additionally, they still have the innovation edge. They’d promised to introduce some Intelligent ATM (Automated Teller Machines) that could count Money in August 2013 as noted in “NCB To Introduce 'Intelligent ATM'”, published Sunday August 25, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner.

They’ve kept good on this promise rolling out their Bank on the Go iABM Machines in November 2013 that can handle Cash Transactions and Cheques without the need to place the notes in an envelope as noted in “NCB Begins Roll-Out Of 'Bank On The Go' Network”, Published Sunday November 17, 2013, by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner.

That move will reduce waiting in Teller lines by 33% as these iABM’s can handle Cash transactions below JA$100,000. So far, they’ve rolled out these new super-sized ATM, which I’ve used at the following five (5) locations with plans to eventually rollout across all their 35 Branches by September 2014:

1.      Duke Street
2.      Knutsford in Kingston
3.      Oxford Place
4.      Portmore in St Catherine
5.      The University of the West Indies

If this plan follows through, reducing the long lines in the Banks would go a long way to addressing the issues of the UnBanked in Jamaica as many find it very difficult to do business with Banks in the first place.

It could also be a springboard for NCB’s VISA Debit Card (or MasterCard??) plans, as they are yet to decided if they are going to do a Prepaid Debit Card like Scotia VISA Debit Card or CIBC VISA Debit Card as chronicled in my blog article entitled “Payoneer, the US based Prepaid MasterCard Debit Card - How E-Commerce MSME's, Online workers and Reggae or Dancehall Artiste can receive Money via Paypal and spend it in Jamaica”.

This as by scaling back Remittances they may roll out their VISA Debit Card (or MasterCard??) with the power to not only Receive Remittances and also attached to a Mobile Money Account via your smartphone but also be tied to E-Commerce Services.

In effect, they've introduced a complete product package; instead of just a Prepaid Debit Card to spend Money online, NCB may be gearing up to encourage MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise) with your own E-Commerce Website, a Worker online or even a Reggae or Dancehall Artiste to use their Three-in-one Service to do:

1.      Receive Remittances
2.      Do Mobile Money Transitions
3.      Enable E-Commerce ACH (Automated Clearing House) services on their Websites

This would definitely distinguish them from Scotia VISA Debit Card or CIBC VISA Debit Card which up until now are focused solely on spending online, with persons like myself having to research workarounds options to making Money online, such as Payoneer, the Prepaid Debit Card from MasterCard as described in my blog article entitled “Payoneer, the US based Prepaid MasterCard Debit Card - How E-Commerce MSME's, Online workers and Reggae or Dancehall Artiste can receive Money via Paypal and spend it in Jamaica”.

It would also solve in one fell swoop the problem of not only the unBanked via mobile Money Services, but also the legitimization of Remittances, as they’d have to pass through a Prepaid VISA Debit Bank Account spendable via their iATM Network. The sweetener on top of all of this would be their E-Commerce offerings, which would interest many MSME’s interested in selling their wares online and receiving payment directly via NCB!

NCB by September 2014 – Mobile Money, Remittance and E-Commerce Triple Play Services

Granted the increase in minimum wage to JA$5600 per week by Minister of Labour and Social Security Mr. Derrick Kellier as per the article “New minimum wage takes effect today, published Monday”, January 06, 2014 7:50 AM, The Jamaica Observer and “Minimum wage goes up tomorrow”, Published Sunday January 5, 2014 12:39 pm, The Jamaica Gleaner is equally surprising.

So too is the promise of no new Taxes by Minister of Finance Dr. Peter Phillips, who has instead decided to focus on making the Public Sector more efficient as noted in “Big relief - No new taxes, says Phillips; reform, cutting debt on main agenda”, Published Wednesday January 8, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner and “PNP insists there will be no new taxes in budget”, published Wednesday, January 08, 2014 3:11 PM, The Jamaica Observer.

All deserving of their own Blog articles for sure. All the above relate to the Call Center World, Telecoms and Alternative Energy and Cloud Computing indirectly, if you think deeply enough about it as I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled “GOJ Parliamentarians upgraded to Microsoft Surface Tablets and GovNET Wide Area Network - Minister Paulwell efforts to reduce paper may accelerate Jamaican Tablet Adoption”.

But the NCB move is magnitudes greater! NCB’s move to scale back Remittances may be a precursor to NCB Launching a new Three-in-one Prepaid Debit Card geared at E-Commerce.

Wouldn’t mind though if they followed ScotiaBank and their namesake Swipe and Go offered by JNBS (Jamaica National Building Society) and eliminated Bank Books altogether and make Banking records available securely online as noted in my blog article entitled “JNBS Introduces Swipe and Go, eliminating Bank Books - Secret of Wings for a Cashless Society in Jamaica”.

Throw in the ability to do Cross-Bank Transfers at the Bank and Go and online portal for this coming Prepaid VISA Debit (MasterCard please!?) as argued in my blog article entitled “CIBC FirstCaribbean Jamaica and First Global introduce Cross-Network Banking - The Avengers for the idea of a Cashless Society and Banking Anywhere” wouldn’t be too bad either!

If so, I certainly can’t wait until September 2014 when their iATM spread across their 35 Branches. In that day, doing business with Banks will be much easier. Mobile Money would be a possibility along with receiving Remittance directly to your NCB Prepaid VISA Debit Card, albeit I’d prefer MasterCard.

And most importantly, empower E-Commerce in Jamaica, thus enableing MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise) with your own E-Commerce Website, a Worker online or even a Reggae or Dancehall Artiste to make Money online directly without go-betweens.

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