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    February 17, 2012

    Local startup IMB offers free money transfers via your mobile phone

    IMB, which stands for Internet Mobile Banking is a Cape Town based startup that believes it is “more than just a bank” because it offers customers far more. IMB’s main focus is to make payments, particularly from mobile devices, easier for both consumers and merchants in a way that is beneficial to both.

    The motivation behind IMB, which initially began by building a mobile wallet back in 2005, was to solve a number of problematic issues associated with online banking. These include expensive fees, lack of micro-billing, inability to use debit cards for online transactions and the search for more efficient ways to transact with money via more efficient software and API services. Another important factor was that many people, like mobile game developers were having to use services like premium rated SMS messages in order to get money from those without credit cards.

    James Godwin, Chief Information Officer, who is passionate about what IMB is trying to achieve, says that “Visa, Mastercard and the banks control how people pay for things and we wanted to change that.” Godwin first entered into the mobile technology industry when he began running an internet service provider that he later sold. It was when he opened a developer business that he met IMB’s CEO, Tim Colman. At first, the two wanted to find a way for people to shop online with debit cards, but they met resistance from some SA banks and so headed in another direction allowing websites and brick and mortar businesses to receive payments via mobile phones that was cost effective, safe and efficient.

    Another way of making mobile banking more cost effective and providing customers with alternative ways to receive notifications other than from an sms (which is expensive) is by introducing a social element that can further evolve into geo tagging to monitor your spending, sending a checkin to foursquare upon purchase or notifying a friend through Twitter. “There are a lot more options” says Godwin, “but we would like customer feedback to best evolve and direct our system to better enable the social space.”

    Godwin acknowledges that many people still don’t trust mobile banking in South Africa and says that the idea of IMB is not to replace your bank but to sit in front of your existing account so you can transact securely in the mobile space. “People are very nervous about exposing their bank accounts and there is much education needed to remove this fear.” Therefore, for the time being, IMB are trying to convince people to just put a minimal amount of money into their IMB account and start transacting. The idea is that users will slowly start transacting larger amounts over time and as soon as they feel secure may consider having IMB replace their existing account.  “We can act as a safe guard as we don’t have any access to your existing bank account and can only receive money via EFT or cash deposit”, assures Godwin. “However IMB is a viable banking alternative.”

    Any transaction within the IMB system is free, as well as setting up an IMB account, however any transaction that leaves the system to another bank for example, incurs a charge of approximately R3.30. However, in an inconventional move, IMB does not subscribe to the traditional merchant fee model associated with other banks. Rather than pay a fixed fee for IMB’s services, merchants pay what is called a “Karma Transaction” where the merchant chooses what fee is appropriate.  “We are all hearing about mobile payments, NFC and Google wallet and many other players in the mobile space,” says Godwin. “It’s an obvious evolution, but nothing is going to accelerate the mobile payment space unless the rules are changed”.

    As for future developments, in addition to its e-commerce gateways for website and real-world merchants, that allows non credit card customers to makes purchases, IMB will be focussing on the development of an e-commerce application programming interface. While this requires an IMB account, product and e-commerce companies will push the idea because it gives them the ability to receive money to continue building their dream site or web app. In addition IMB would like to explore the micro-billing model that allows for the payment of small subscription fees. Godwin explains, “I think there are possibilities in this space. Imagine receiving 0.1c for each time your blog is read? This cannot be done at the moment due to high merchant and transaction fees.” IMB wants to make this and more, possible.

    Watch a demo video below:

    IMB-E-commerce from Jamie Godwin on Vimeo.


    Additional source: Tech Central

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    • Thanks for this interesting article Kelly, with mobile marketing coming into South Africa a user friendly service is really what many will be looking for. Lower banking costs always a pleasure. Look forward to hearing how this makes progress.