According to a study conducted among the 125 main Latin American financial institutions by Latinia, a software infrastructure company specializing in mobile banking platform products, in the last 18 months, there has been a significant advance in the selection of mobile financial services (MFS) in Latin American banking. Its penetration has gone from 38% to 51% (64 banks). If we reduce this figure to the same index of the first study (100 banks analyzed), the percentage is increased up to 55%, an improvement of up to 44%. “Although a clear leadership of the continent’s main economies is logically observed, we can conclude that incorporating the mobile device or cellular phone into the financial institutions’ multi-channel strategies in Latin America is no longer a phenomenon associated with specific markets, but rather the need to innovate and meet the demand generated by the overwhelming logic of economies with more than 80% cellular penetration”, according to Francesc Perez, the company’s top executive in Latin America.
With respect to the technologies employed, a clear leadership by messaging (SMS Banking) has been observed. This is reasonable if we consider that we are dealing with the most universal of mobile technologies, further supported by 100% of the terminals. Either as alerts or queries, it is present in 65% of the banks offering mobility. With half of the presence with respect to messaging, we have WAP technology. Up to 20 of the 64 institutions with a selection of mobile financial services (MFS) have a WAP portal (31%). It is closely followed by the presence of J2ME downloadable applications with almost 1 out of 4 banks offering MFS. Quite modestly, and although the absolute number is not very significant (4 out of 64), the applications would appear on the terminal’s SIM card (for which Bank-Operator agreements are indispensable, whether or not they are exclusive).
Another relevant fact is the number of technologies that the financial institutions have to offer. In this regard, out of the 64 institutions, 3 out of every 4 have only one technology available to their customers; 1 out of every 5, two technologies, and only 5% (3 FI’s) have a three technology MFS available.
Regarding analyses by country, there are two that stand out. One due to absolute numbers (Brazil) and the other due to diversity (Argentina). Both can be positioned in the tier 1 status in Mobile Banking. Both successfully juggle service volume (diversity) with size (banks involved). Mexico and Chile would follow close behind with similar morphologies in MFS, both due to volume and bank penetration and due to the profile of available services in the works. What would be surprising is the scarce penetration of Mobile Banking in Venezuela in light of the spectacular adoption of SMS messaging there.
It should be remembered that Latinia already has some clients in the region such as Banco Santander in Puerto Rico (BSPR) or Telefónica Internacional (TISA) to whom it provides the mobile infrastructure to operate their messaging services.