The Winners Of The Merchant Mobile Money Challenge

It’s an exciting time for the Level One Project at the Gates Foundation. We’ve just announced the winners of our first Grand Challenges Exploration (GCE), which focused on promoting wide spread acceptance of mobile money by small merchants. This group of nine includes a diverse set of approaches and ideas to products, merchant services, technologies and models that will be developed and incubated in a number of countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Each of the winners obtains a 100,000 USD grant to help them refine and build merchantout their idea. Congratulations!

The idea behind this GCE was to provide a forum for those who are willing to think outside the box to help drive merchant acceptance of mobile money – one of the most relevant and critical enablers to a healthy and robust digital economy. Good ideas need a sandbox to grow, and the GCE is all about providing these ideas with the support and independence they need to be successful.

I want to say thank you to every organization that applied (we received a total of 304 applications from 30 countries!) and I want to encourage you to continue exploring outside the castle.

To learn more about the nine award recipients, please visit

2014 Was A Positive Year For Financial Inclusion

(This post was first published on Ericsson’s M-Commerce blog)

In 2014, we saw solid indicators that governments are taking financial inclusion seriously. It is increasingly seen as a tool for improving poor people’s lives, and we witnessed concrete progress in many countries around the world.

On the importance of financial inclusion as a key governmental objective, I’ll use the examples of India and Pakistan, where I have been recently involved – among other countries – but many countries are taking similar and ambitious measures.

In the last six months of 2014, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) eliminated major regulatory barriers to digital financial inclusion, clearing the way for a big expansion in digital financial inclusion in 2015-16. These include:

  • Payments Bank regulations: RBI issued new regulations that allow companies with significant distribution expertise (including mobile network operators) to offer deposit accounts, payments, and cash-in/out services as a stand-alone business.
  • RBI also removed the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirement that customers must provide proof of their current and permanent address for opening a bank account.
  • The bank also partnered with India’s telecoms regulator to require mobile network operators to provide access to banks’ USSD channels for mobile banking.

Also in 2014 the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi launched the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) financial inclusion scheme with the goal of achieving 100% financial inclusion by January 2015. The program is a big opportunity to digitize India’s government payment flows. Indeed, in support of JDY, Prime Minister Modi embraced the Aadhaar digital identification system and 720 million Aadhaar numbers have now been issued.

We also saw encouraging developments in Pakistan, where the Finance Ministry and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) took several major steps to expand digital financial inclusion:

  • The National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and SBP signed an agreement to reduce NADRA’s biometric verification fees for mobile accounts. SBP agreed to harmonize biometric KYC across mobile accounts and SIM cards.
  • Finance Minister Ishaq Dar gave a major speech announcing the government’s commitment to digitize government payment flows, join the Better Than Cash Alliance, and chair an Inter-Ministerial Council on Financial Inclusion.

Financial inclusion is a journey and 2015 will be another important step to completing the mission. I hope that we will soon see the first countries embark on a coordinated “all hands on deck”, multi-sector and multi-player program to connect, one by one, the hundreds of millions of people whose lives will be changed by relying on digital and safe payment and financial tools.

Share your thoughts below!

Humanitarian Innovator

Humanitarian Innovator – this is how Mindjet has referred to me in their “INQ” magazine recently (registration required to download it), listing me on their “Innovation’s Heavy Hitters” page.

It is a first and it does highlight, in a very short and elegant manner, the “why?” of my job and the core belief driving it.

Thank you!




Bank Innovation 2014 In Seattle

I had the privilege to be invited to the Bank Innovation 2014 event in my home town. I 2013-09-09 at 07-41-17loved the theme – “The future, in focus”. The theme was beautifully illustrated by a photo of Seattle’s Space Needle partly in clouds (the photo is mine, albeit similar to the one of the conference). I found it very catchy – now that I’m used to the weather of Seattle, I know that very often a day may begin in fog and end up in bright sunshine: Good metaphor!

The organiser and host of the event was JJ Hornblass. JJ has been a longtime follower of Innotribe, and we maintain over several years a dialogue about innovation in financial industry.

JJ invited me to come over for a “fireside chat” – a relaxed format where we indeed talked about a wide range of subjects and also invited questions from the audience. I loved the format. We did prepare for it but we also let the inspiration of the moment prevail, so the result was, I think and hope, entertaining and fresh.

I was very honoured by the way JJ introduced me – he retraced briefly my career at SWIFT, and emphasised the Innotribe experience. He then briefly explained my current job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and wanted to explore the perpectives on the financial industry from these radically different perspectives. Thank you very much JJ!

Here are some links resulting from the fireside chat –

The event was very well attended (my estimate was about 250 people), very rich in topics – I appreciated a lot the focus on the fin-tech startup community. It was also very lively on Twitter (#BI14) and I made a lot of Twitter-friends.

Finally, it was also a  pleasure to meet Matteo Rizzi, my fellow Innotribe co-founder and dear friend. We haven’t seen each other since we took off on our respective ways after SWIFT, and it was such a thrill to have him visit my new home town!


Lots of buzz and happenings

I feel a bit guilty about neglecting this personal blog for quite a while. I’ve been busy with many projects –

– of course the maelstrom of projects at work

– an intense offsite with the Innotribe team

the Innotribe@Belfast conference

– several speaking engagements, including a recent Kuala Lumpur trip to develop my digital transformation of finance story

– the Forbes blog

– the book!

But, but, but – two more days and then off to Greece first and the Alps afterwards.

Going back to Greece’s Peloponnese beaches, sun and the big blue will be a thrill! Its been more than 3 years, much overdue. And then the long walks near my stronghold in Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise.

I’ll have some time to blog about personal things and hopefully post some drawings.


The 5Ws of my blogs

Why, What, Where, When, Who?

I’m facing a little bit of a challenge at the moment as I’m contributing to an increasing number of blogs.

There is this blog, and the innotribe blog, my usual hang out places.

I used to blog occasionally on, but that is changing for Still transitioning.

I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to BankThink, the blog platform of American Banker.

And most recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to be a contributor to

There are some other writing projects that I’m pursuing. Some very good friends (? ;-) ) have convinced me I should write longer pieces about Innotribe and innovation in general.

So I’ve been spending all my recent plane time writing – not sleeping or reading or watching movies. It turns out planes are good places to write things. And I’m just back from a 2 day long week-end from our retreat on the Belgian sea shore, where I spend a lot of time …. writing.

I did discover this – I like writing. I thought I would be too impatient to *really* write, but it turns out I can do it. I like it – so far I don’t love it. But let’s see where it takes me. On to new adventures.

Anyway,  I need to put some order into all these blogs and writing, figure out the 5Ws of each. So just wanted to let you know this is happening, and I hope you can track me down in the meantime.