Microsoft cofounder (one of the world’s greatest philanthropist) Bill Gates is helping to bring mobile banking to developing countries. In an interview with Bloomberg Television anchor Erik Schatzker at the Sibos conference in Boston on October 2nd, 2014, Bill said he wants to make mobile payments much easier and cheaper to use for managing small amounts of money in developing countries.
Schatzker asked him a series of questions about finance, digital payments, what he thinks of the new Apple pay and other questions about what he is doing to bring mobile banking to developing countries.
Here is what Bill Gates had to say.
ERIK SCHATZKER: Why does Bill Gates care about finance?
BILL GATES: Well it’s all about helping the poorest. And one thing they don’t have access to is bank accounts. The fee structure if you have small amounts of money is just too high. And we got involved in some traditional micro lending but just didn’t see how that could scale up and get inexpensive enough. So now we’re involved in trying to make sure we get a very efficient digital payment structure set up for all the poorest in the world to get financial products that work for them.
SCHATZKER: What are you doing?
GATES: Well the idea is that typically through the cell phone you should be able to send money to your relatives. You should be able to track the money that’s coming in, set aside money to buy seeds the next year. And there are countries where this is beginning to take off. Kenya, Bangladesh, even Somalia, maybe the last country you’d expect. Up in Somaliland, almost half of the GDP is done digitally.
SCHATZKER: I don’t need to tell you that the poor have been unbanked for as long as there have been banks. Why is this time different?
GATES: Well it’s really the digital revolution. The poorest have bought cows, stored gold, put currency under their mattress, but they are getting cell phones. And the cell phone capability of identifying who’s using the cell phone, letting you look at your spending patterns, that’s going to be common sense. People are going to have help and lots of innovative products competing on top of this digital currency platform.
SCHATZKER: Some of what you just described, the need to move money from place to place, the cost of doing so, the overhead as you put it, makes me think, believe it or not, of bitcoin because some people have said, hey, bitcoin is the answer to those problems. Are you a believer?
GATES: Well bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place. And of course for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient. The customers we’re talking about aren’t trying to be anonymous. They’re willing to be known. So bitcoin technology is key, and you could add to it or you could build a similar technology where there’s enough attribution that people feel comfortable this has nothing to do with terrorism or any type of money laundering.
SCHATZKER: Bill, a lot of people say Apple Pay is going to transform the financial services industry. What do you think?
GATES: Well Apple Pay’s a great example of how a cell phone that identifies its user in a pretty strong way lets you make a transaction that should be very, very inexpensive. So the fact that in any application I can buy something, that’s fantastic. The fact I don’t need a physical card anymore, I just do that transaction and you’re going to be quite sure about who it is on the other end, that is a real contribution. And all the platforms, whether it’s Apple’s or Google’s or Microsoft, you’ll see this payment capability get built in. That’s built on industry standard protocols, NFC. And these companies have all participated in getting those going. Apple will help make sure it gets to critical mass for all the devices.
Here’s the full interview: