Money

Bringing 21st-century banking to the unbanked

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We’re all well aware of the technological innovations that have occurred in the banking sector over recent years. As modern bank customers, we’re treated to the ability to control our accounts through simple apps on our phones, we’re able to make payments using contactless technology, and we can make payments from anywhere in the world to anywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees these benefits. You may not realise, but the UAE is home to a large population of ‘unbanked’ consumers – people with no banking facilities whatsoever. These people deal in cash, and in cash alone, meaning that the technological benefits that we’ve seen in the world of finance haven’t really helped them. Naturally, banks have little interest in serving anyone other than their own customers, meaning little has been done to bring technologically savvy finance to the world of unbanked consumers.

Until now, that is.

Meet Trriple, an upcoming payments platform that will provide benefits to people with bank accounts and credit cards. But more importantly, it will also bring unbanked consumers out of a cash-only world and introduce them to digital banking. The brand was launched this time last year, and since then, Trriple has been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work meeting regulations and securing partnerships. That work is almost done, and the service is slated for a first-quarter 2017 launch.

According to Abdulrazaq Salah, Trriple’s Co-Founder and COO, the idea behind Trriple is to create a mobile wallet service that caters to the needs of both the banked and unbanked populations of the UAE.

“Trriple looks at the consumer not as a banked community, but as the entire consumer market, which is the unbanked, under-banked and banked communities,” he says, speaking to yallacompare.com.

“Just to give you an example. Someone might have a bank account, and she may have a debit card and a credit card. Another person might have no bank account, no credit card, no regular debit card and just cash. How do you cater to both? Financial institutions today are catering only to the first person, their own customers – that’s the only pool that they deal with. But that happens to be a very small percentage. The majority of the consumer market is like the second person, so from Trriple’s standpoint, we address the pain points for the second person, as well as the pain points for the first.”

To consumers, Trriple is essentially a mobile app which allows you to store funds and make payments. In the pipeline are functionalities such as the ability to make mobile payments at stores, send remittances, top up your mobile phone, or transfer money to friends, among others. Trriple is also teaming up with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority so that users can check the balance of their Nol cards on the go, and top up if necessary.

“From that perspective, we’ve mapped all of our solutions, it’s bottom-up, it’s customer-centric and it’s addressing specific pain points in the payment industry, whether it’s remittance, or air time top-ups, or bill payments for utilities, or government payments, groceries, gas, any mundane, everyday type of payment transaction. We wanted to make sure you could do that, plus more, from your phone,” says Salah.

But if Trriple is aimed at serving cash-only consumers, how exactly do they get funds into their mobile wallets? Well, according to Salah, there are two main options that will serve the unbanked market. The first relies on Trriple’s fast-growing network of merchant partners (more on them later), who will have access to a Trriple Merchant app. They’ll be grocery stores, banks, and others, and they’ll be able to take cash from customers, and deposit that cash into their customers’ Trriple accounts. You can think of it as depositing cash into an ATM machine, except in this case, the ATM machine is your supermarket cashier.

The other method serves consumers who are paid with salary cards, essentially single-use debit cards that allow employees to withdraw their salaries from an ATM. Salah suggest that, instead of this, Trriple will be able to offer companies a payroll and salary solution, allowing them to pay directly into employees’ Trriple wallets. It’s a little more complicated than that – the funds get sent through a government central switch, to a bank of the employer’s choice, back through another switch, and so on – but for the user, it’ll feel like an instant salary transfer, such is the power of the technology behind Trriple.

The real success here, though, is that Trriple will be able to act like a bank account without users actually have to open an account. Indeed, this is a real market need, because many unbanked consumers in the UAE are unbanked not through choice, but because they aren’t eligible for fully fledged banking services. Trriple solves that by providing a mobile wallet that can be accessed and used via mobile.

It should be noted that, to enjoy the full mobile wallet experience, users will still have to submit documents such as passport copies. But Salah insists the process will be much easier than is the case with traditional banks.

And for those of us who do enjoy proper banking services? Well, the ability to check your Nol balance on the go does sound pretty good.

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