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Check-cashing organizations need to embrace mobile: ABI

According to ABI, many believe that mobile is a key way to attract the underbanked or unbanked consumers to banks. In an ABI Insight study, the research firm said that a marriage of mobile and check-cashing organizations that provide bill payment and other services to the unbanked is a logical one.

“What I am saying and suggesting is that these companies that provide services such as paying utility bills, topping off prepaid cell phones and wire transfers are in a better position than banks in many instances to serve the unbanked,” said Mark Beccue, senior analyst at ABI Research, New York.

“I might be literally able to use my phone to top off my prepaid, directly from my phone,” he said. “It enhances the services those organizations already offer.”

ABI Research provides analysis and forecasting of emerging worldwide trends.

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Mr. Beccue said that people talk about how banks can reach the unbanked and how banks can tinker with new types of services and use the mobile channel to reach new customers. But, the focus should be on check-cashing organizations using mobile, not just banks.

Mr. Beccue said that the unbanked are typically immigrants who travel around the country a lot or people who do not trust banks.

The unbanked or underbanked typically use check-cashing organizations in place of a bank to pay bills and conduct other financial transactions.

Check-cashing organizations could prosper in the person-to-person sector of mobile banking and payments.

Because of ATMs, consumers with checking accounts can get cash easily and repay somebody for a pizza, for example, but those without a bank account would have a harder time doing that.

“There’s a lot of buzz in the media right now about mobile person-to-person payments,” Mr. Beccue said. “I still am unconvinced that in developed countries it will be a big market.

“If I owe you money, it’s not hard to get cash or whatever,” he said. “But, if you extend it to the unbanked, that’s a different story.

“Consumers might be separated, because some people work in one part of country or in another region and they need to send money somewhere else, and mobile would make it a lot easier to do that.”

In doing research on the topic, Mr. Beccue said that the most surprising finding was that check-cashing organizations have not taken advantage of mobile.

Although many of the organizations may be smaller, there are bigger business  and Mr. Beccue said that it makes sense for them to capitalize on mobile.

If a check-cashing organization goes mobile there are two main benefits, Mr. Beccue said.

“One, this becomes much more convenient for their customers –their current base of customers and even new customers,” Mr. Beccue said. “Today, they have to physically visit a location and stand in line and go through the rigmarole to pay the bill, to get the check cashed or to get the phone topped off, but if there was a mobile automated service it would be much more convenient.

“The second part they would come to realize is there are some cost savings,” he said. “They can save money in operations by making an investment in mobile and automating services.

“Customers that typically use check-cashing organizations are really anonymous, they don’t like to give a lot of information and they’re nomadic, so a company’s return rates shift a lot. If you could use mobile and use it across multiple services then it is a sticky tie for the consumer to the organization.”