The GSMA Mobile Money Summit kicked off this morning with a call for mobile operators and banks to foster stronger links with one another to further boost a market that already boasts 147 deployments around the world. “There are no deployments of mobile money in the world today that do not involve a mobile network operator [MNO] and bank partnership,” stated Gavin Krugel (pictured), mobile money director at the GSMA, in the opening keynote. “Mobile operators are not out there to disintermediate banks and become banks; they have certain assets such as a brand and customer connections, but they are not banks. We can’t do this without a bank.”

Krugel spoke of good growth in the mobile money market over the last year, up from 119 deployments in mid-2009. Today, 65 of the 147 deployments are commercially live, with the rest eyeing commercial launch.

“Mobile money in Africa is now mainstream; there isn’t a MNO in Africa without a mobile money strategy,” noted Krugel. Indeed, Krugel cited a recent quote from the CEO of a multinational operator group who had declared: “We need to deploy mobile money services in our African operations or shut down our business there as our customers will walk across to our competitors who already have mobile money.”

Globally, Krugel claimed it is now increasingly difficult to find a MNO without a mobile money strategy. “Since last year we have more deployments that have millions of consumers,” he commented, citing a variety of more sophisticated mobile money services that are boosting the market. Such services – developed from early initial P2P transfers – include salary payments, government social payments, mobile money transfer, micro-credit, micro-insurance, savings and NFC applications. “All this has come from a consumer push rather than the intention of the operators,” reflected Krugel.

Specific challenges remain though, warned Krugel. He noted that there is still work to be done on the operator/bank relationship, as well as ensuring that the millions of customers signed up to mobile money services are converted into active users. Two other challenges include building, managing and incentivising agent networks, as well as the perennial issue of regulation.

Krugel concluded by repeating his belief that true partnerships are necessary for the mobile money market to grow further. “We are not talking about disruption; we are talking about convergence, new business models and new ways to target consumers who have demands that are not being met today… Unleash the power of convergence; think about what we can do together to target new market segments. It’s not you or us, it is us together that will create a market for mobile money.”