NBS – Remittance linked savings

Country: Samoa

Partner: National Bank of Samoa

Date: Nov. 01, 2017 to June 30, 2019

Grant:  USD 269,600

Target: 10,000

Current reach:  100 (Dec 2018)

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Need

Samoa has a fair prevalence of financial inclusion in terms of bank accounts, at nearly 39% of the population, roughly evenly split between men and women. Most of the unbanked claim that “lack of money” is the main reason for not having a bank account, and most of those reside in the rural areas of Samoa. Verified data is not available but the actual usage of bank accounts and digital channels is low (between 5% and 15%, PFIP estimates).
The bright spot in the country’s financial inclusion story is undoubtedly remittances: over half (56%) of Samoans indicated that they receive money from abroad (Samos DSS 2015), mainly from Australia and (especially) New Zealand (75% between these two countries). About $400 million Tala ($160 million USD) was remitted to recipients in Samoa in 2016, most through Money Transfer Organizations (MTOs) such as Western Union, PacificEzy, and MoneyGram.

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Solution

The NBS digital financial services Innovation Lab (Lab) project will design, test, and validate the hypothesis that NBS can leverage Digicel’s mobile money infrastructure to improve the adoption of low-cost digital financial services through deliberately offering savings-linked remittance product and improving the business case for agency banking in Samoa.

The project will deliver three core achievements.

  • New financial services will be developed that will inspire Samoans to receive international remittances in a bank account securely, motivate them to save, and use a mobile banking platform to improve their financial lives.
  • An additional 10,000 customers (new to the service) will be added to the newly created remittance-linked savings product.
  • A structured validation of the operational feasibility and commercial viability of the digital platform, cash merchant network, and financial services for the mass-market segment, women in particular.

The project will employ a human-centered design approach to design, create, and test services that inspire an enthusiastic adoption and usage of digital financial services by all Samoans, in particular, those living outside of Apia.

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Methodology

The ‘Innovation Lab’ will design, test and validate financial services, over a period of 18 months, that are delivered through Digicel’s mobile money channel for mass market customers in Samoa. The Lab team will start by creating an active customer base for two of its existing services: remittances and savings. The Lab will start with linking the inward remittances e-wallet-based service of Digicel to an NBS savings bank account offering direct receipt of the remittance money into the bank account. The next phase of work will focus on day-to-day payments services, such as prepaid electricity, water, airtime top-up, and payment for government services, eventually increase the adoption of mobile banking channel.

The Lab team will create ecosystem of 25 active MM agents who will also provide banking services and will add up to 10,000 active customers who currently use expansive remittance channels. The team will specifically deliver a financial education component to Samoan diaspora to empower them in making informed financial decisions, aiming that they are able to save between 5% to 12% in the transaction cost.

Additionally, the team will encourage the existing 44,000 Digital Mobile Money registered customers to adopt banking services through the new bank-wallet linked channel. At the same time, efforts will be made to motivate existing 20,000 NBS customers to use the new NBS-Digicel mobile banking channel for remittances and other financial services, such as bill payments, savings, and transfers. Between these institutions, there is a potential to add 10,000 customers to the new service.

PFIP will provide the technical assistance to coordinate the designing and testing of products and services aimed to create the active user base. A full-time project manager-cum-business analyst will have day-to-day responsibility for implementing the Lab’s work plan. S/he will be supported by a dedicated project team.

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About NBS

National Bank of Samoa is one of the four commercial banks in Samoa. It started operations in 1996. The bank has about 21,000 deposit accounts and an estimated 20,000 unique customers (deposit and credit). The bank operates a network of four branches and 10 ATMs.

The bank also offers internet banking. In the past, it used to offer SMS banking and prepaid electricity payments. The SMS service has been discontinued due to operational and viability reasons. However, the bank has embarked on a long-term digital transformation journey. It plans to extend the range of digital channels, including mobile banking and advanced ATMs.

The bank previously has offered a Children Savings product, 5 To Life, which used out of branch channels (schools and mobile vans) to deliver the product in rural areas. The model was costly for the bank to sustain; therefore, the rural outreach channel was terminated.

The partnership with Digicel is an important aspect for the bank’s digital transformation plan1. It allows NBS to design products for low-income segments and test technology-based channels, which will provide the bank the necessary evidence about customer demand and bank’s ability to operationalize/manage such a channel.