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Munich, Bavaria, Germany, 2010/02/11 - Juniper Research estimates that there will be a total of 612 million mobile banking users globally generating more than $587bn (£299bn) worth of financial transactions by 2011. A Munich company gets ready to become one of the key players.
The new market player VoiceCash makes mobile banking a reality
What’s in a location? It’s a good question when someone sets out to change the way the world banks. In fact if Michael Kramer was talking from a marble clad penthouse in Frankfurt or London it might sound more convincing. But Munich? But after a few minutes of Mr Kramer’s company the unimposing office suddenly becomes one of the reasons that he actually seems to have the potential of changing how a large part of the world banks.
“In this office we talk of banking for the millions, never of banking for millionaires.” He states flatly. Just the fact that VoiceCash Bank now exists, and has opened for business in Malta is a major step for him and his company towards those plans. “At Davos at the World Economic Forum in 2009 I asked some Arab bankers what they were doing to enfranchise the smaller people. They looked confused, then started talking about offering micro-financing in units of $50,000. They missed the point.
There are millions of expatriate workers across the world. They have to send home money to their families. Many are looking for other financial services. But these people are faceless. Many are illiterate.” But, he adds significantly, almost all have a mobile phone and VoiceCash Bank is aiming to bring banking to them in a way that they can both afford and understand.
Kramer is a perhaps an unlikely visionary. His background as a business consultant certainly did not prepare him to bring financial services to the world’s needy, nor to build VoiceTrust, the company associated with VoiceCash Bank. On the other hand, once he recognised that voice biometrics were already workable, his vision drove him to Rutgers to buy the technology. His team developed the security aspects, and now customers range from the Allianz group through the Swiss military to the USAEC. Pretty convincing really.
So how can he change the way the world banks? His answer is by a step-by-step process. The first step was to issue twin prepaid MasterCards. That way anyone anywhere can pay money onto the card and the other card holder can then access that money through world-wide ATMs and the 28 million or so other places that accept Master Card.
Fine, but many of these people have no possibility to fill in a form in any European language. The answer is to take the service to them. The service is already beginning in a small way in the Gulf. It is being run by a team of advisors with the expertise and experience in the field of middle eastern credit card development.
Having created the basic framework the next step is to control the clearing process. This is where the Maltese based VoiceCash Bank comes into the picture. “When I try to explain the clearing process to non-financial people, their eyes just go cloudy. It’s a complicated mess” says Kramer. But apart from simplifying their own clearing problems owning a fully SEPA licensed bank also allows them to take deposits. A major long-term breakthrough.
So the next step is to expand the card operation. In 2008 overseas workers around the world repatriated approximately 338 billion Dollar (€229.8 bn). The routes are usually time consuming and expensive. The twin card solution solves this problem. VoiceCash Bank currently plans to add a salary card to the portfolio, enabling overseas workers to be paid directly into their account. Once on the card it can then be sent anywhere in the world. In terms of security the company has developed a new and extremely simple “call back” system.
This involves voice biometrics. For example, the cardholder transfers money from one card to another, or to a foreign bank account. He can do this by SMS or voice control. Because his voice is registered, and held in conjunction with his mobile phone number, an automatic call-back will suffice to verify that the voice profile matches the phone number. Simple, and a boon to those who are illiterate or do not speak a recognised international language.
The last word comes from Michael Kramer: “In principle in a very short time anyone with a mobile phone can have an account. The account will allow him to transfer money anywhere from anywhere. This is the real face of mobile banking, and it is potentially available to anyone with a mobile phone. That means just about everyone currently working in Europe, the Gulf or any other high labour demand area is a potential customer.”
By Kramer’s desk stands a set of drums. They are his passion and release from business stress. Talking to him one can’t help thinking that not so long ago another gifted amateur drummer named Eddie Jordan decided to enter Formula One. He did it on small capital and a lot of common sense. He won races, something that the might and massive budget of Toyota never achieved. By the same token this modest office in Munich could well make mobile banking a reality, and when it does the potential is literally limitless.
Text by Julian McNamara
VoiceCash (voicecash.com) specializes in International Mobile Money Transfer. The VoiceCash services enable mobile users to share money with family members or friends abroad. VoiceCash issues the first prepaid twin-card for electronic payments, a Prepaid MasterCard twin-card, in Germany. Thus VoiceCash enables cross-border mobile payment services and provides access to 28 million locations, where MasterCard is accepted. Cash withdrawals are possible at 1.5 million ATMs worldwide. The VoiceCash Prepaid MasterCard twin-card can be managed online via Internet, via mobile phone SMS commands or using VoiceTrust’s innovative and certified biometric voice verification system. VoiceCash Bank has a full European SEPA Banking license. Thus VoiceCash appears as a turnkey supplier for money transfer services offering mobile operators, banks and other service providers a central processing system for worldwide mobile transactions.