Mobile remittances, referred to as the "next generation" of electronic payments via the mobile channel, have various benefits. For example, many people in rural areas do not have access to traditional financial services, but do own cell phones. Therefore, the latter part is absolutely ideal for mobile-banking outreach. So, World Council of Credit Unions "provided software and technical assistance to the Le Levier Federation of credit unions to launch 'Boom'--a mobile banking product. It is the first mobile product in Haiti to connect user transactions to credit union current accounts rather than use stored cellphone value. Offered by more than 60 credit union locations nationwide, Boom offers Haitians the ability to register, deposit and transfer funds to registered and unregistered users for free and to make low-cost cash withdrawals within seconds via their cellphones," (July 2013 news release). The following is a true story about Boom, and an invaluable example of the kind of personalization and close ties that credit unions have with their members.
One day at a Haitian credit union, a staff member named *Anne received a call that the internet was down at a neighboring credit union in Port-au-Prince-and they needed to perform a payout for a customer. Anne and *John, a World Council staff member, made a detour to resolve the problem. They arrived at the credit union, and John offered his personal laptop and satellite internet connection to perform the transaction. After a few failed attempts, they were unable to process the transaction. They then inquired with the customer and learned that he had received a text message about a company called "Boom."
Anne and John asked the customer if he had called Boom's customer service line to resolve the issue. He replied that he hadn't called because his phone had just ran out of minutes. John then happily introduced himself as a Boom representative informing the customer about the company and how mobile remittances work. The customer was pleasantly surprised, appreciative, and decided to register on the very same laptop. After the first few steps, the member's phone died before he was able to finish. Once again, John gave him his own phone to complete the registration process.
The member's withdrawal was finally completed. To finish the process, Anne and John took a screen shot of the member's receipt, saved it to a thumb drive, and transferred the data to the customer's account to print later for his own records. Before leaving, the customer turned to both of them and said, "Wait...it's as if you came just for me, right? I have been waiting here for 2 hours waiting for the internet to work to get my money, and then you show up from Boom!" Anne thanked him for his patience and made sure he felt settled with everything. He then went on to say, "I'm so excited to try this new service." The man was also happy to hear that he was now a member of the credit union. He explained that he had always thought about joining a credit union, but was hesitant and unsure. Now, he felt eager, comfortable, and excited to take advantage of the opportunity given to him through Boom. This was a genuine highlight for John to witness how the customer felt Boom made a personal visit, just for him.
So how does this short story relate to Global Women's Leadership Network? First, this is an undeniable example of a committed member-first attitude from a credit union leader. Moreover, take a look at what John wrote about how the General Manager inspired him as well as others:
"The General Manager, *Mary, of this credit union was and is an incredible natural female leader. In addition to being the General Manger, she sells Mary Kay and welcomes many of her members with a smile and a hug. It is truly ‘relationship banking' as we so often hear in the U.S. You immediately sense that certain intangible kindness and warmth in her when you meet her.
The reason all of this matters is because Mary is always the first to try new technological things and does so out of implicit trust in her credit union league because they have a long-standing relationship which has established that trust. It isn't about pricing negotiations, blaming others when things go wrong, or making sure she's in control--as some male leaders are prone to do--it's about trying new things and taking risks because she wants to improve her members' lives. There are bigger, more sophisticated credit unions in the federation--but if you want to try something new you go first to this credit union and talk with Mary."
Social Media Intern
World Council of Credit Unions
*=Names of people and institutions have been changed to maintain privacy.
"Haiti: World Council to Explore Mobile Utility Payment Solutions for Sustainable Electricity Program." World Council of Credit Unions. World Council, 11 July 2013. View for the full news release.
Wolf, Saul. Manager of Remittance Services, World Council of Credit Unions.