Sat | Aug 19, 2017

GK MPay to spread to the Caribbean

Published:Friday | February 10, 2017 | 2:00 AMNeville Graham

GraceKennedy's new mobile money platform will allow subscribers to send and receive remittances via their smartphones.

The company got the green light for the remittance service from the central bank on Tuesday, just ahead of its official launch of 'MPay' later that evening.

GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS) says it eventually wants to expand its mobile money services beyond Jamaica to other Caribbean markets. GKMS operates in 11 regional markets.

"It's a game changer, an absolute game changer," said Michael McNaughton, vice-president for business development.

"As it turned out, we found that two separate departments were looking on the different sides of this product and the remittance aspect could not have come at a better time," McNaughton said, regarding the approvals from the central bank.

GKMS said in its press kit that it wants to use MPay "to help transform money movement via its new electronic platform, starting first in Jamaica".

Contacted for clarification Senior Vice-President for Marketing and Operations at GKMS Noel Greenland declined to be drawn regarding the timelines on when MPay's footprint will touch other shores or even the locations to be prioritised, but he reaffirmed that the company would "explore the possibility of expanding our footprint in the future."

To enter other markets as a mobile money provider, GKMS would likely need approvals in the various jurisdictions.

There are now three mobile money services in Jamaica - GK MPay, Quisk and Conec. GK MPay is the second to get approval but first to market with a remittance component of its mobile money service. Conec, the mobile money service offered by credit unions, said it secured authorisation for receiving remittances last year but is yet to launch the service.

GK MPay can be used to send and receive money, buy phone credit, receive remittances through Western Union, make purchases - including from street vendors - pay for services, and pay bills.

It's unclear how many merchants are on board to accept MPay, but GraceKennedy said at the launch that it is even targeting the "the jelly man and market vendor".

The GK MPay service is available as an app for smartphones and some low-end phones.

Greenland notes that the mobile money service will serve to complement GraceKennedy's money transfer operations through its Western Union franchise, as remittance recipients may have the funds loaded on to their phones via MPay rather than turning up at a Western Union counter to collect.

The MPay service makes its market debut after two years of development that included a pilot programme in which user styles and expectations provided market intelligence to perfect the service.

Greenland says GKMS is going after the 'unbanked' persons that form a large part of the Jamaican population. He says the functionalities of the service are such that persons may top up their mobile wallet in much the same way they put credit on their mobile phones.

"We're certainly going out 100 per cent to ensure that everybody, in every nook and cranny of Jamaica, knows and understands how the product is to be used, and the benefits of the product," Greenland said.

Starting today, Friday: "We will be hitting the streets very hard with traditional as well as new media. So we're having a 360-degree approach to the marketing of this service," he said.

GK MPay is available in three tiers: bronze, which caps top-ups up at $50,000, with a daily transaction limit of $15,000; silver, capped at $100,000 and daily transaction limit of $40,000; and gold at $150,000, with the daily transaction limit set at $50,000.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com