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Jan Chipchase – Future Perfect: Predictability, Margins of Error, Quality of Life

 If you appreciate things happening when you expect, and as you expect .. something that rarely, if ever, occurs in North America (think about that), you must read this. 

We in North America have no concept of service… none.  I will debate that with examples with anyone.  I wrote about hits before, but Jan’s post here does real justice to the precision that occurs in Japan, and that will make anyone else in the world simply cringe.  Consider … a late subway is not an acceptable excuse … you need a late note, or they won’t believe you. 

I recommend Jan’s post … incidentally, his day job is designing next generation phones for Nokia (Swedish) and look where he is based.

If a train is more than a couple of minutes late Japan Rail issues an apology and on arrival at the destination a queue may form at the station-master’s office to pick up an official late-note. Blaming public transport is not a viable excuse in Tokyo.

Source: Jan Chipchase – Future Perfect: Predictability, Margins of Error, Quality of Life

PS.. here is his talk at LIFT07


Written by Colin Henderson

April 5, 2007 at 16:39

Posted in Uncategorized

North American and European mobile banking has a lot to learn from Afghanistan people

This is an amazing piece of work on mobile money (Hat tip to Chris Skinner for this link), but it is more than that.  It speaks to intrinsic value and the creative ability of people to develop banking and money systems for themselves with the tools available.  Here the tools are things such as goats, seeds eggs and gold.  The competition in this environment is hawala, an informal but trusted method of couriers.

This is Afghanistan.  Jan Chipchase is someone I first came across at LIFT in 2007.  Then he was with Nokia, and is now Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog design, based out of Shanghai. This Afghanistan project is funded by the Gates Foundation.  One of the many remarkable elements of this Afghanistan project is that I recognize all the town names, and not for good reasons.

If all you do is spin through the powerpoint entitled ‘JanChipchase-themobilefrontier-vFinal’ you will realise this is an amazing story.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

It shows how little we understand the power of mobile in North America and Europe.  In fact when you get right down to it, despite the inconveniences, North American mobile services do not have much additional functionality than M-paisa in Afghanistan.  In fact many banks do not even have the capability of sending money from one person to another electronically.


There are four attachments in the post and they are worth the click through.  Here is my summary to whet your appetite.

Mobile Money, Afghanistan: Researching the Mobile Frontier

The idea of mobile money became concrete in 2007. In that year, after a pilot
program supported by the United Kingdom’s development aid organization and
Vodafone, the Kenyan mobile network Safaricom launched its M-PESA service.
M-PESA permits person-to-person money transfers via mobile phone using an
extensive network of M-PESA agents throughout the country. The sender initiates
a transfer via text message and the recipient of the message goes to an agent to
collect the cash. As of late 2010, M-PESA had over 12 million subscribers and had
become an integral part of Kenyans’ everyday lives.


Salid has experienced radical change enough times to know the importance
of spreading around his investments—over the years he has put his money into
livestock, gold, and most recently, property. A peek inside his wallet reveals a bank
card and a wad of Afghanis (AFN), the local currency, and US dollars.

She has a bakht account with Kabul Bank, which is a special lottery-style
account through which she is entered into regular draws for prizes that can include
anything from cash and computers to cars and even apartments. The principles of
Sharia law forbids the payment of interest on bank accounts, but local banks get
around this by paying mafad (benefit), and they incentivise savings through a variety
of means including bakht (luck) or qismat (fortune) accounts.

While the (M-Paisa) transfer was indeed inexpensive (AFN 25, USD 0.55) and seemed
secure, Mariam became ashamed when her friend told her how inconvenient it had
been to pick up the money.
This friend had spent two hours trying to cash out the transfer before she was
successful. Over an hour was spent combing the streets of Kabul trying to find an
M-Paisa agent, who upon hearing her cash-out request, said he didn’t have enough
money on hand, and asked her to return the next day. This person was located on
the fourth floor of a nondescript office building in downtown Kabul, with nary a
sign on the street or on the building to indicate the presence of an M-Paisa agent

Farooq maintains that it’s not his responsibility to ensure the IDs provided by
customers are valid. “How would I know if an ID card is real? Anyone can get one on
the street for AFN 500 (USD 11), or by knowing the right person; it’s not my problem
if someone uses a fake one. How can I tell? Maybe M-Paisa should just accept
thumbprints like the hawala agents. Then people that can’t read can use it, too.”



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Written by Colin Henderson

April 10, 2011 at 16:56

Posted in Uncategorized

Latest in vending machines in Japan

I love Japan.  Just when we think we have seen the latest something like this at Shibuya JR station. And it accepts all ‘swipe’ cards of course but also cash.  It even recognises your gender.  (hat tip Dave Birch to a Jan Chipchase post)

Tokyo: touch screen vending machine

Tokyo: touch screen vending machine

Touch Screen Vending

Written by Colin Henderson

January 5, 2011 at 09:49

Posted in Uncategorized

LIFT07 – thoughts and relevance to Banking

LIFT07 is over, and its hard to imagine.  Laurent did a superb job of not orchestrating what people should talk about.  The approach was open, and very engaging.  The chatter was non stop.  The presentations, and panels, were just plain thought provoking.  Scoble makes a couple of great points.  Who needs vendor booths at conferences.  They all have web sites.

At LIFT some obscure and different people, we or at least I would never have otherwise seen. 

Sampo Karjalainen speaking about Habbo.  I’ll bet few North Americans have heard of them.  Habbo has 7.5 million active users.  Think Second Life in a browser, but so much more.  People create rooms, and buy items.  People create private rooms to warehouse items, which because of limited availability rise in value, and can be sold on eBay.  Sampo makes the point that the ways people use the rooms, to create commerce, competitions, or conversations, is not anything he could have imagined.  Simply providing the tools, and the environment is all Habbo has to do, and the users do the rest.

Jaewong Lee of, speaking of what comes next for search after Google.  How the majority of Google searchers pick one word.  He spoke of the power of collective intelligence and how that can shape and filter search results to be more meaningful, and importantly, easier to use for the masses.

Jan Chipchase from Nokia, an Englishman, living in Tokyo, designing phones for illiterates.  How we are approaching a situation, or may already be there, where the majority of phone users are illiterate.  Yet phones have been designed for people who read and write.  Following his thoughts and examples was fascinating, and how that research pans out will have implications for all phones.  He was followed by Nathan Eagle from MIT< but resident in Kenya, and studying mobile phone usage.  He spoke of people in Kenya buying phones for $10, and sim card for 15c, being sold on all the street corners.  That card has 10 calls built in.  He spoke of small SMS applications being built to trade, and sell things.   This is in Kenya – they are more advanced on SMS than Canada!

These are just three examples.  The common theme for me, and from the conference, I think, has come down to understanding how people and society interact as a result of technology.  To say its not the same as before does not capture it.  There are directions happening in first world and 3rd world that suggest a much tighter integration between real life and virtual life.

Which brings me back to banking.  The them for my talk was that online banking is not e-commerce.  Its simply the automation of transactions, that could be done by a person in a branch.  Its obvious that commerce will be handled entirely differently in the future as a result of the directions, and shifts occurring.  Its also obvious that the answer is not “go build me one of those”.  The changes required will be iterative, test and learn, small incremental change.

The next opportunity I have to talk about this is to actual Bankers at NetFinance2007.  LIFT provided a good warm up for that event.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

Its no longer an option.  If Banks wish to survive, they must engage with the online world, try some of the tools.  Enough examples exist now, to prove the current Bank model is under active threat. (Wesabe, Prosper, Zopa, FYGO, CircleLending)

Be prepared to make mistakes, so provide some backup to those who are asked to do the testing.  Engage those within the Bank who understand some of these threads, and try some things.  Blogs, wikis, internal and external are great place to begin.  But look beyond that … those tools will gain engagement, discussion, and ideas for your Bank.  But look beyond to more radical ways – as I stated at LIFT.

Networked employees and networked customers. If your business requires employees see that as an advantage and at least provide the same capabilities to them as their customers have.

With that kind of environment, who knows were it can lead.


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Written by Colin Henderson

February 10, 2007 at 21:52

Posted in Uncategorized

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