BlackBerry Looks To Regain Composure With Money Transfer Service
February 26, 2013

BlackBerry Looks To Regain Composure With Money Transfer Service

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

The once dominant BlackBerry handset surely put a lot of money in the coffers at the company formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM). Now comes word the Canadian smartphone maker might be getting in the money transfer business.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported BlackBerry is testing a service that could be tied to its instant-messaging functionality. However, BlackBerry isn´t partnering with a Canadian bank in this venture.

Instead, BlackBerry is reportedly launching a pilot project with PT Bank Permata, an Indonesian bank partly owned by Standard Chartered, a firm that provides personal and business banking services to clients in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This partnership could allow users to transfer money to contacts via the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

Moreover, while it might seem this functionality would be available on the new BlackBerry Z10 handsets, in fact the service would only work on BlackBerry 5, 6 and 7 devices. The service will likely be supported on the new handsets, which haven´t been announced for release in Indonesia however.

In this pilot program, users will be able to set up BBM Money mobile accounts, which would be issued by PT Bank Permata. The bank will process the financial transactions and reportedly manage bank-grade security measures that could include passcode, encryption and even monitoring.

BlackBerry subscribers can then use a BBM Money account to add cash at a PT Bank Permata ATM — for which the bank reportedly has about 700,000 in Indonesia. With this money in the tied account, users can make payments to other BBM contacts and transfer money to other bank accounts, after visiting a designated bank location for a one-time identity check. The BBM Money program will also allow Indonesian users to purchase mobile airtime and pay for prepaid SIM cards for family and friends.

The choice of Indonesia might seem like a strange place to start, but the nation of nearly 250 million people is also one of BlackBerry´s remaining bastions, and the handset remains the leading smartphone brand. BlackBerry has been on a long slow decline, and has seen its worldwide subscriber base drop from 80 million to 79 million by the end of last quarter.

However, there are more than 60 million BBM customers worldwide, with about three out of every four BlackBerry subscribers utilizing the handsets free instant- messaging functionality. This could be an opportunity for BlackBerry to take advantage of this fact by offering options to send more than just text.

“BBM was traditionally thought of as just a chat client,” T.A. McCann, vice president of BlackBerry Messenger told Bloomberg in a telephone interview. But, with the addition of video to the messaging service and now BBM Money, “we´re really trying to work hard to show clear examples of how we´re expanding BBM well beyond just chat.”

It could be a move to stop losing customers to WhatsApp and other rival services.

It could also be a way for the Waterloo, Ontario-based mobile phone maker to get into an industry dominated by Western Union, MoneyGram International and even PayPal. The mobile money industry is expected to grow from $13.8 billion in 2013 to $278.9 billion by 2018, according to a Sunday Morning Herald (SMH) report, citing research group MarketsandMarkets.

It could also mean this service is planning on going global.

“Assuming the trial goes well, you could assume all kinds of different expansion whether it be additional banks, addition countries (sic), additional devices and of course all kinds of functionality,” McCann added.