Brad Jones, CEO of Wave Money, Myanmar, a mobile financial services provider, spoke to EDC’s Samee Zafar.
How has Wave contributed to financial inclusion and the financial well-being of its members and customers?
Wave Money launched in Myanmar in August 2016 with an initial focus on money transfer. Myanmar is a country of 53 million people. Physically, it is nearly three times the size of the United Kingdom. It has great diversity and also has the lowest road density of any country in the ASEAN. From the banking perspective, it is estimated that only between 5 to 20% of people are banked. This creates an opportunity for a company like Wave Money. Moving money around the country historically has been very difficult, particularly given the challenges with distance and geography. In order to fulfil this customer need, Wave Money has built a network of 43,000 agents that now covers over 90% of the country. We estimate that over 7 million people are now sending and receiving money through our network of Wave Money agents, which is a significant percentage of the adult population. Using Wave Money to send domestic remittances from garment factory workers to their families is helping people feed their families, educate their children, and ensure their medical needs are met.
What are the key areas of progress to date?
Wave Money has had great progress since we started. As a brand, we have become one of the best known financial institutions in the country, and in 2018 we moved US$1.3 billion in domestic remittances which equates to approximately 2% of Myanmar GDP. We expect this to grow significantly in 2019. Importantly, Wave Money moved to an EBITDA positive position in August 2018, only two years from the month of launch. We have maintained that position since that time which we think is a great outcome, and one that we are pretty sure has not been replicated anywhere else in mobile money. We are extremely bullish on the opportunity for mobile money in Myanmar and we think it could be a great success story that will one day mirror some of the great stories coming from Kenya and East Africa.
What do you in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
Launching Wave Money over the last few years hasn’t left me with much spare time unfortunately! However, I like nothing more than spending time with my family somewhere in South East Asia. We have a trip coming up to Bali in April which will see my two daughters who are at school and university in Australia joining my wife and I for a week of relaxation and reconnecting. We are also excited about the upcoming marriage of my eldest son early next year. In the past, I have been a passionate rugby player and coach, with career highlights including playing for a couple of representative teams in my younger days and coaching Colts to 1 Grade at the University of Melbourne Rugby Club. Whilst I have pulled the boots on as recently as last year, my interest is more in watching Super Rugby and Test Matches these days.
What are your personal goals / ambitions?
My personal goals are very much linked to my work at Wave Money. I am absolutely dedicated to seeing the business become a core component of the financial lives of the Myanmar people. If I can look back in the years to come and see the positive impact that financial inclusion has had on Myanmar, I can finish my career happy to have made a difference.