Telenor's Kornelija Lipus Eriksen discusses how the operator is becoming a bigger player in helping people spend, save and manage their money.
Telenor has long set out to improve people’s lives through the mobile phone. One area of increasing priority is financial services, and looking at new ways that the mobile operator can contribute to making banking, purchasing and other money-related services more convenient. Kornelija Lipus Eriksen, Head of Financial Services for Telenor Corporate Development, believes that the operator’s role in the financial world is primarily to increase customer convenience and bring more services to more people.
“There are markets where the operator can really make a difference, in terms of bringing simple financial services to people who have never before had access to them or did not understand their benefits, for example in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. In these areas, one of our key assets is our brand, which people know and trust. We also have the distribution model in place, which gives us an advantage over the banks,” said Eriksen.
A dynamic approach to financial services
Telenor Group focuses on three areas in its development of financial services throughout the company: Banking the unbanked, mCommerce and catering to customers’ unmet needs. Eriksen stressed that each of these areas is quite dynamic and that constant change is necessary to keep up with customer needs and maintain a competitive advantage.
“No financial service is static, and we should constantly strive to improve and innovate,” said Eriksen. “The important thing to remember is that not every service will transform the lives of millions. Some services will be transformative, but there are other, more minor services that will simply bring more convenience to the lives of the users.”
Banking the unbanked
“Banking the unbanked” is perhaps the most life-altering of Telenor’s three focus areas within financial services, as the company sets out to bring never-before-seen services to emerging markets and potentially to unbanked segments of maturing markets. In these segments where banking penetration is low, Telenor focuses on cooperating with the banking industry to help bring services to the masses.
“Our distribution system allows us to bring financial services to more people in more places. With a service such as Easypaisa in Pakistan, people no longer have to travel and spend a day waiting in line to pay a simple bill or transfer money. We are where they are,” explained Eriksen.
When it comes to mCommerce, Telenor focuses on building upon customer offerings that already exist. By increasing convenience for users, lowering costs and lessening the overall complexity across the value chain, Telenor is able to significantly improve the user experience.
“Take the example of Internet banking in Norway, for instance. It used to be quite inconvenient to log-in to your online bank accounts, as each account required a token to generate your log-in identification,” said Eriksen. “Telenor Norway launched BankID on the mobile phone to make the process simpler, using the SIM as the new source of identification.”
Eriksen explained that BankID not only made the online banking process easier for users, but it also relieved banks of excess cost and logistical challenges presented by the tokens.
“When Telenor first ventured into mCommerce, they believed that the opportunities were generally concentrated around mature or maturing markets. But this is not necessarily the case,” according to Eriksen. “With growing customer expectations, we see that mCommerce is coming to emerging markets as well.”
Catering to customers’ unmet needs
Anticipating future needs of customers is an important part of the Telenor financial services strategy. Internet payments, third party payments and Near Field Communication (NFC)-related initiatives are areas that Telenor continues to explore.
“We are still in the exploration stage,” said Eriksen. “Our goal is to cater to the needs that are there today but weren’t there yesterday. The ecosystem is changing and competition is growing, but our focus remains the same: to use the mobile phone and our other telecommunications assets to improve people’s lives.”