After over a decade of market development, most agent banking and mobile money agent networks are still managed with the same techniques and technologies that they were when they were launched. Hence, it is no surprise that they exhibit the same issues of high inactivity, uneven service quality, difficulties going rural, and problematic liquidity management.
Together with the Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) FIBR project we reviewed different technologies that agent network managers were implementing around the world, and suggested others from adjacent industries that should be adapted in the digital finance industry. We published our findings and advice in a paper titled, Digital Solutions for Analog Agents: New Technologies to Manage Agent Networks.
Further, we analyzed the dynamics influencing the development of agent networks in emerging markets, noting that there is likely to be big shifts in the ownership of agent networks, and therefore how they are managed and the types of technologies that will be implemented. In an associated blog titled, Emerging Dynamics for the Future of Agent Networks, we examined three scenarios:
1) telecoms outsource the management of their agent networks as their margins continue to shrink and they need to cut cost centers.
2) master agents grow larger as they garner more experience, and generate revenue from serving multiple providers.
3) agile technology companies create new platforms that allow them to scale more quickly and cost-effectively than the previous generation of agent networks.
In each of these scenarios, the different characteristics of the managing entity will drive unique technology needs, meaning that many technologies for agent networks will need to be customized to specific stakeholders and developing generic solutions now for the industry will probably not be a successful path forward.