Tag Archives: Kressel Ross

Banking in the Developing World

This article was originally posted on my account on Medium.com on March 6th, 2017.  I hope you enjoy!


I’ve seen a great deal of literature in the last year or two about the way that financial services industries are developing across the African continent. To really investigate this, look no further than Kenya, where mobile payments are easier than in Pittsburgh or Los Angeles and the leader in this market is M-Pesa (Swahili for mobile money).

96 percent of homes across Kenya us M-Pesa according to a recent report in CNET. That is the kind of market domination that Google Wallet and Apple Pay can only dream of and it is happening in a market that never really had traditional banking.

This all has had me thinking. This is one of those cases where necessity leads to the birth of innovation. It also means that companies like Apple and Google have a lot that they can learn from what M-Pesa is doing.

According to a report in Business Insider, mobile payments will make up $6.3 trillion of the payments that take place in China by the year 2020. Much like in Kenya, China didn’t develop the same kind of banking system that Europe and North America have, so they are for the most part also going through a similar LeapFrog.

This still leaves the existing banking infrastructure in China hurting. The state owned UnionPay loses out on the fees when mobile payment is used. The Financial Times in an article in August described this well.

UnionPay, along with issuing banks and acquiring banks, is hemorrhaging income from merchant fees. The trend is fueled not only by the rise of ecommerce but also by the dramatic increase of mobile payments to offline merchants such as supermarkets and restaurants.

Mobile wallet leaders like Alibaba and Tencent are dominant players in this space, while traditional banks are starting to try to get into the action. I’m truly interested to see how this will play out in the long-term, but one thing is for certain.

These companies are being faced with the challenge of minimizing elicit transactions while also growing a global network of users and agents involved in their transactions. To become an acceptable option in places like the United States, they will have to show their willingness to crackdown on those using their service for illegal services while also making sure their customers feel a sense of privacy.

One of the concerns growing out of the M-Pesa phenomenon is a fear that the platform will be used for money laundering (sound familiar to arguments against BitCoin?). In a US State Department report on International Narcotics Control Strategy, M-Pesa and the potential for money-laundering listed in the section about Kenya.

Mobile payment companies like M-Pesa, Alibaba, and Tencent are entering an era where staying afloat will be truly a balance acting. Only the most innovative companies will be able to continue adding value to the experience of their customers while also remaining a trustworthy firm.

Is Blockchain the Future?

This article originally appeared on Medium and you can find it here.

Media coverage of the blockchain is starting to pick up recently, so I thought it was important to gain a better understanding. On its most basic level, blockchain is a database that creates records for its transactions automatically. If you know anything about cryptocurrency (BitCoin for example), you have been part of one of the major users of the blockchain.

It seems like our future could be bound up in how effective this system is. As an example outside of what you might think about with BitCoin, Walmart announced a trial using blockchain to track to manage food safety. They know how dangerous problems with food, whether it is fresh, prepared, or otherwise.

In recent years, recalls of food due to contamination with listeria, e-coli, and salmonella have dominated the headlines. Look no further than the problems that have plagued Chipotle. While I’m sure they never intended to harm their customers, Chipotle has seen their stock value plummet from a high of nearly $750 per share to as low as $370 per share (on Friday, it closed at $416/share).

Chipotle could have avoided seeing its market cap cut nearly in half had this technology been available to more quickly ascertain the source of its food safety problems. To be fair, some of these problems may be linked to food prep, which this technology might not be able to fix unless the system included the transaction of who is cooking what at each period of time as well as who assembles each burrito, bowl, or salad.

Beyond this, time will tell what kind of value to the economy blockchain could eventually have in self driving cars, healthcare, identity verification and of course finance. I’m excited to see what the world with blockchain will mean, but until then, I’ll just be watching to see who succeeds implementing it.