Financial inclusion has emerged as a significant policy objective over the past decade. There is considerable will among policymakers, the development community and the private sector to bring the world’s two billion unbanked people into the formal financial system.
In Myanmar, financial services provider Wave Money is attempting to close this gap. The provider is the first company to offer mobile financial services to the developing Asian nation, while its government is trying to improve access to financial services. Wave Money is hoping its platform will increase the availability of electronic payments throughout the country.
The firm was formed in 2016 following a joint venture between mobile operator Telenor and First Myanmar Investment Company. In March 2018, local commercial bank Yoma Bank acquired the latter’s stake in the company.
The company is the first licensed provider under the Central Bank of Myanmar’s Mobile Financial Services Regulation and provides simple and reliable mobile financial services. Since its launch, Wave Money now serves 1.3 million customers – equivalent to approximately 2.5% of Myanmar’s population. These customers are served by an extensive network of more than 25,000 agents (Wave shops) across 87% of Myanmar, which is 10 times the number of bank branches in the country, and more than six times the number of ATMs.
The income generated from agents providing financial services to people in their communities is becoming the largest revenue stream for a growing number of agents, with some earning more than $50 a day – which is significantly more than the $3.50 a day cited in the Making Access Possible report.
Wave Money is also pushing inclusion through its investments in financial literacy projects. In collaboration with the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wave Money recently launched the first app targeted at Myanmar’s female population – one of the nation’s largest unbanked demographics. The app, Shwe Toe, was developed with the objective of teaching young women financial concepts such as saving, budgeting and opportunity cost. It aims to fast-track the pace at which people – particularly women – can benefit from increased access to financial services.
Wave Money is also helping bolster the economy by directly and indirectly employing more than 200 local staff. Its vendor employees – Pearl Distributors, for example – pay up to 300 employees directly into their Wave accounts.
The firms’ success is evident in its profits. From March 2017 to March 2018, the company’s revenue and transaction volume grew at a compounded monthly rate of 22% and 31%, respectively. In January 2018, Wave Money’s revenue had grown by 1,130% year on year and daily transactions had increased 2,639% year on year.