Opinion

Good progress but more work needed to go cashless

By Foo Boon Ping

New technologies, closer attention to user experience and increasing awareness for industry collaboration will push other countries to adopt cashless payments.

  • Technology disruptors have broken the barrier to access cashless payments for people around the globe
  • Tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have had to play catch-up to enter markets like India
  • China is adopting cashless payments at a rate faster than any other country in the world

The march away from cash and cheques continues at an unrelenting pace. And we have a lot to thank the technology disruptors such as Safaricom (Mpesa), Alibaba and Tencent for. From a practical perspective, they have finally broken the barrier to access cashless payments for literally billions of people in the underdeveloped and developing economies, long neglected by the incumbent financial services industry.

The tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, even payment leaders such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, too were late to the mobile payments game.

And now they have had to play catch-up, trying to make inroads and experiment in markets such as India, ie Amazon Pay, and EMVCo has also jumped on the QR code bandwagon. Although, one may argue that Apple created the first smartphones that enabled a lot of what is possible with mobile payments today, the fastest growing part of cashless payments, it is still a laggard in the game. Apple Pay is not getting the traction and acceptance that is expected given its huge user base.

In contrast, one of the early starters, Tencent, has just surpassed the one billion users mark, not a billion registered users or a billion app downloads, but a billion users who are actively using it every month. 

Detractors would say that Facebook has more users and decry the state of data protection in China, but in volume and range of services made available on its Wechat (Weixin) messaging platform, from ordering take-outs to making dental appointments, Tencent has become the benchmark transaction and customer experience platform that is at this moment in time seemingly unbeatable, and others are trying to emulate.

Thanks to Alipay and WeChat Pay, China is adopting cashless payments at a rate that is faster than any other country in the world.

However, it is still far from being the country with the highest rate of cashless payments. That honour goes to Sweden, where all stakeholders such as the banks, regulator, clearing house and businesses work together to make it happen.

No doubt with new technologies, closer attention to user experience and increasing awareness for industry collaboration, many other countries will be snapping at their heels.  



Keywords: Technology, Payments, Cashless Payments
Region: Asia Pacific
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