28 February 2011

MEF Executive Questionnaire #22: Justin Ho, co-CEO, Utiba

MEF continues to seek new ways to profile its members and promote the thought-leadership of the senior executives within these companies. We are pleased to launch the MEF Executive Questionnaire to reveal the real people behind the industry in an informal and entertaining manner.

This will be a regular feature of the MEF blog, so make sure you subscribe via email or RSS. If you are a senior executive from one of our member companies and would like to be featured then please contact MEF Marketing Director, Stephen Jenkins.

The twenty second in the series is from Justin Ho, co-CEO, Utiba,

1.Please describe briefly your main company activities and your role within that organisation

In 2000, Utiba co-founder Richard Matotek and I, began providing mobile financial transaction services with the launch of the Utiba electronic top-up utility, designed to increase pre-paid penetration for mobile operators. In the past decade, our platform has evolved and now supports mobile commerce and mobile financial services to over 400 million subscribers worldwide. In many of the 25 countries where we have deployed financial services over the mobile network, there has been a tangible benefit to the “bottom of the pyramid” segments of society, segments that have hardly benefited from decades of economic development and technological change.

My role within the organization increasingly, is to articulate a vision of the future of mobile financial services and translate that to deliverable products that our customers and partners can leverage to be leaders in this space. I seek innovative ways that we can continue to grow as a viable, thriving technology business, and continue to contribute positive social benefits.

2.Without necessarily revealing any confidential information, please outline the principal business models your company uses.

As the market continues to evolve and we continue to develop our mobile financial software platform, we have begun commercializing our software in innovative ways. In 2010, we launched a joint venture, known as Utiba Americas, which provides our software as a service (SaaS). This business model allows mobile operators, banks and payment service providers (PSPs) to launch mobile financial services with a lower initial investment. This way they can focus on building out the so called payment “ecosystem,” and acquiring customers.

We also recently announced an initiative creating the largest mobile to mobile remittance clearinghouse in the world, offering corridor routing, transaction settlement, and foreign currency exchange to global telecommunications carriers, money transfer operators, and financial service providers, among others.
Geographically, we focus on the developing economies of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and LatAm, because that is where we believe our services will have the most meaningful impact.

3.What has been your company’s greatest achievement to-date?
We are proud of many of our deployments. In terms of scope, our greatest achievement to date has been with Globe Telecom in the Philippines. In 2001, we invented the concept of voucher less top up using an inventory wallet. It’s been used throughout the world and allowed operators to deliver lower cost and more affordable top ups, helping to bring billions of people to use mobile phones. I estimate that Utiba has eliminated 120 Billion bits of paper and plastic through this concept. Then in 2004, Globe’s mobile money service G-Cash has changed the payments and banking landscape in the Philippines, and has allowed rural banks to enter the area of micro- finance, and allowed mobile to mobile remittances.

In terms of scale, our “greatest achievement” has been with Airtel in India, where we launched our electronic top up service in 2004. Today, the platform handles 16 million transactions per day.

4.What is exciting you most in 2010 (either personally or professionally)?
Seeing the professional and personal development of our company and its people, as well as the continued roll out of Mobile Payments and Budget Banking in multiple countries, helping foster financial inclusion amongst the least privileged populations of the world.

5.What is the most important piece of technology in your life?
Clearly the Mobile Phone! I can leave my wallet at home but not the phone.
I look forward to the day that developed countries embrace what we do in the emerging markets so I can simply pay anyone only knowing their mobile phone number. Banks really need to simplify the way they force us to use their systems by making payments simple. That way I can leave my wallet at home forever

6.What mobile device(s) do you use?

7.What’s your favourite application?
Worldcard Mobile. Eliminates the need to file business cards

8.What’s your ringtone?
This is the day

9.Which mobileindustry blogs do you regularly read and why?
Mobile Payments and Mobile Commerce World

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