When I mention mobile phone banking services, what is the first idea that comes to your mind?

Guest Blogger: Matt Steine

FE 1This was one of the questions asked at the focus group discussion (FGD) conducted recently in a small town of Laur in Nueva Ecija, Philippines.  The participants were borrowers of the local rural bank, GM Bank, based in Cabanatuan City.  The session was held to road test the financial education materials developed with assistance from the Microfinance Opportunities (MFO), partner of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP).

RBAP, through its USAID-supported Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) Program, is receiving support from MFO as part of a joint project established between the latter and The MasterCard Foundation. The project is to support the adoption and sustained use of mobile phone banking (m-banking) services via increased financial education for clients of rural banks.

FE 2While there are already more than 900 accredited rural bank branches and sub-offices offering m-banking services to more than 150,000 rural bank clients, the RBAP-MABS program is determined to accelerate the growth of m-banking services to reach even more rural entrepreneurs.  One of the keys to this endeavor is financial education.

While the idea of sending money through your mobile phone may seem simple enough, communicating the specific benefits of m-banking clearly and effectively to a wide range of rural entrepreneurs presents its own set of challenges.

Many of the lessons learned by the RBAP-MABS team have been incorporated into an improved m-banking toolkit for rural bank officers and staff, their merchant partners, and their clients. This toolkit, along with specific materials and conceptual aids, are going through a prototype test. These will be refined throughout the month of April as part of the ongoing financial educational initiative.

FE 3In addition to FGDs, the three-day field test included presentations on the importance of branding and delivering the brand promise for m-banking, testing animations, user guides, and a new savings tool with staff and clients.  The bank staff practiced teaching clients and merchants about the benefits and uses of m-banking services, and also conducted role-plays to overcome objections.  The workshops were rounded out with the plan for gathering feedback from the month-long pilot and options for gathering other suggestions from staff and clients.