KlickEx, Digicel Pacific offer web-to-mobile wallet money transfers

New Zealand online currency exchange platform KlickEx has partnered with Digicel Pacific to launch Digicel Mobile Money, a way to transfer money to and from mobile phones in the Pacific Islands.

KlickEx was formed in 2009 by ex HSBC banker Robert Bell, Brett Waterson and former Microsoft NZ managing director Ross Peat.

The company’s website launched in December 2010 and allows foreign currency exchange without transfer fees or minimum amounts.  Users bid the rate they wish to exchange currency at, based on speed of transfer.

New Zealand, Australian, Tongan, British and Samoan currencies can be traded with US dollars, Japanese Yen and the Euro scheduled for this year.

Digicel Pacific’s mobile wallet services are offered in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea for domestic transactions, including payment of bills and buying products from stores.

The mobile wallet service is accessed via the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) protocol, where users in the Pacific Islands dialled a short code to access the USSD menu and perform functions from their phone, such as paying bills or checking an account balance, Digicel Pacific commercial director Darren Maclean said.

This service was like the one employed in New Zealand to check mobile account balances by texting a code to a certain number, he said.

The partnership with KlickEx to launch Digicel Mobile Money enables the transfer of money from a New Zealand bank account to a Digicel mobile phone in the Islands. 

International transactions cost $NZ3 and an exchange rate commission.

Mr Maclean said the new service combined Digicel’s widespread mobile penetration with KlickEx’s currency exchange platform to “slash” the fees on sending money to the Pacific.

“Our new service means even relatively small amounts like $20 or $50 can now be easily and safely transferred at very little cost, a major breakthrough for achieving greater financial inclusion among Pacific communities.”

A Pacific Islands Forum economic ministers’ meeting report in 2010 looking at trends in remittance fees and charges found that the average cost of remitting to the Pacific was significantly higher than global averages.

The report said that in the Pacific, about $US470 million was remitted to Forum Island countries in 2008.

It said across all remittance corridors to Pacific Island countries surveyed, the average cost was 15.2% of the amount remitted when sent from New Zealand, and that it was estimated that remitters to the Pacific pay at least $US90 million in remittance fees each year.

The KlickEx release said the Digicel Mobile Money service was initially aimed at the Pacific community in New Zealand remitting funds to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

It said senders were charged a low exchange rate commission, with total transfer costs “a fraction of the cost of conventional services.”

A release from KlickEx said money transfers through the service were completed within five minutes and the recipient was notified by text when the funds were available.

KlickEx chief executive Ross Peat said the Pacific Islands were often under-banked whereas access to mobile phones was much easier. 

He said the KlickEx platform had “industrial strength” security measures and required a number of user authentications for various functions.

Mr Maclean said Digicel was looking to move the service outside the Pacific Islands, but not to New Zealand.