Microbank wins award for innovation

Business, Normal

The National, Wednesday 29th August, 2012

THE United Nations in PNG has congratulated Nationwide Microbank for winning the 2012 PNG Institute of Directors’ award for the innovative company of the year this month.
Its pioneering practices, especially the introduction of the MiCash mobile wallet and bank account, has allowed rural Papua New Guineans to access their money in a more-convenient, safe and affordable way.
It is an innovation that can only help the development of a predominately rural country such as PNG, the UN said.
“MiCash allows the woman selling vegetables at the market, or the local farmer selling cocoa, to have easy, secure access to their money and keep track of their savings, even if they are days from the nearest bank branch,” UN resident coordinator David McLachlan-Karr said.
“This will strengthen local economies and assist sustainable economic growth within PNG.”
NMB managing director Tony Westaway said that 75% of NMB MiCash accounts were opened in rural areas and 75% of the MiCash accounts were opened for previously “unbanked” or other bank customers.
“We see the demand is driven by convenience, flexibility and affordability,” he said.
“We currently have 60 agents operating throughout PNG, predominately in rural areas, and this number is growing.
“Our approach to financial inclusion is about education.
“It is important that our target customers, the grassroots people of PNG, are provided with financial literacy training.
“At present the average balance of a MiCash account is K268 (US$126), which is excellent because it means that people are using these accounts to accumulate savings.
“It is important to us that these accounts remain active.”

NMB’s business partners include Digicel and Oceanic Mobile Transactions Ltd (OMTL).
During the PNGID Awards ceremony, Westaway thanked both the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) for their support in the development of MiCash.
PFIP is a joint programme of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with additional funding support from the AusAID and the European Union/Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Microfinance Framework Programme (EU/ACP). 
PFIP aims to increase by 500,000 the number of low income and rural households, micro and small enterprises in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) that have access to affordable financial services by 2013.