For decades, commercial banks have avoided serving people living in poverty, especially in rural areas, because of the high cost of processing small transactions. In contrast, Opportunity has invested more than $20 million over the last 10 years in the use of electronic and mobile technologies to reduce transaction costs and bring services to the most marginalized and remote clients. By establishing low-cost satellite branches and deploying ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) devices and mobile banks in outlying areas, banking services are provided to people in their own communities.
Capturing clients’ biometric information provides convenient and secure access to finances, even for those who are illiterate or lack formal identification. When clients open an account, their fingerprint is scanned and stored in the bank’s system, enabling electronic transactions at retail and ATM locations. New technologies use cell phones, and satellite and broadband Internet to further increase Opportunity’s reach.
With grants from Omidyar Network and Credit Suisse, Opportunity has launched an electronic wallet strategy tailored to the needs of Malawi and seven other sub-Saharan African countries. Building on existing infrastructure, Opportunity is designing and implementing new electronic and mobile banking technologies to reduce transaction costs for customers and increase the number of people who have access to these critical services.
The Opportunity Technology Center provides high-tech management information systems solutions for its banks. The Denver-based center deploys standardized, state-of-the-art accounting and portfolio management systems in Opportunity banks and provides ongoing training and development support. The center also serves as an application service provider, remotely managing the banks’ complex daily reporting and maintenance requirements.