Banking at your fingertips: The rise and rise of mobile payments technology

By Khalid Elgibali

The sweeping changes in payments technology fascinate me, and this stems from my observations as a child. Growing up, I vividly remember lining up at the bank with my father, eagerly waiting as the staff counted the various currency denominations, and held them together with a currency strap before finally handing out the desired amount. In a matter of only few years, these long queues and the extensive process required to withdraw cash were to dwindle and get replaced with the many ATMs that dotted the city centers, making money in its physical form less visible. And today, with pocket-sized gadgets replacing both the teller and ATMs alike, this has never been more reinforced.

The rise of mobile technology and digital infrastructure has altered our traditional ways of doing commerce, with payments and banking being at the forefront of this digital disruption. According to a statistic, the number of connected devices worldwide exceeds 28 billion units and is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020 as the internet of things (IoT) reaches critical mass. While each device harbors the potential to be a secure commercial tool and driver of sales, one gadget –the ubiquitous mobile phone– has driven Mastercard’s aspiration to completely alter the global payments landscape and transform the way you and I engage with money.

One of the early inventions to leverage mobile payments came in the form of Masterpass– a digital wallet service that turns a smartphone into a single channel for all transactions, right from paying for groceries at a store to booking airline tickets at a virtual kiosk on the web. Masterpass has doubled up on convenience by turning into a contactless and secure payment method in a world where people shop on-the-go and have few reservations about not seeing a physical manifestation of currency. Over the years, Mastercard has continued to fuse strength in research and development with lifestyle trends of millennials– a crucial audience for long-term success.

The mobile payments landscape, however, faces its own set of challenges. Expensive infrastructure and strict regulations can obstruct the progress of this technology, or, even worse, limit mobile banking to a privileged few when mobile devices offer a benefit for all. Strategic alliances with financial institutions, merchants, regulatory bodies and telecom services create an ideal setting to overcome hurdles and penetrate promising markets.

The realm of mobile technology is a fertile ground with limitless opportunities, and its glimpses are visible in plush shopping malls of metropolitan cities to the humble farmlands of agrarian economies. By keeping customer benefit at the heart of innovations and replacing competition with strategic collaborations, mobile payments technology is poised to increase its positive influence on our financial lives and redefine money as I -both the child and the adult- never imagined.

(Khalid Elgibali is the Division President, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard. This article was first published

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