Engendering public trust is by far the biggest hurdle Squeeze Cash would have to surpass in order to carve out, increase and maintain its market share.
Such is the view of Jeremy Stephen, keynote speaker at the mobile money digital application’s launch in Arnos Vale, St. Vincent on Tuesday 26th November.
Stephen recognized that at the core of this trust issue is persons’ worry about “the privacy and security of [their] information” on platforms like these and said “… the benefits would out shadow or outperform any of the doubts they have with trust in the system… the evidence is there in terms of other economies having spent the last ten years proving that this technology has a lot of upsides.”
The wider public’s ultimate manipulation of the digital wallet service being offered by Squeeze Cash would depend on the management team’s ability to attract and maintain “strategic alliances” through partnerships with government agencies to allow for payment of services ranging from passport and license fees to utility bills as well as major retail merchants like Courts SVG to make/collect hire purchase payments.
The featured speaker further recommended educating the market as to the known characteristics of fraudulent digital money schemes so as to differentiate between the value proposition Squeeze Cash offers and the non-existing gains of such shams. A major difference, he said, is that Squeeze Cash facilitates spending “it [Squeeze Cash] is about payments, it’s not about hording. One Coin and most other fraudulent services…encourage hording – not spending, not reducing friction, they do not have any secondary value, they can’t be replicated into digital currency because they cannot be endorsed or will not be endorsed by monetary institutions such as the ECCB or the Central Bank of Barbados….”
Stephen, who is a Banking & Finance lecturer at the UWI Cave Hill campus, pointed out how the OECS stands to gain from general financial inclusion in the digital money industry. Ease of doing business index would improve as merchants and consumers can meet in a virtual marketplace without the need for physical cash and all the time-consuming activities that handling money entails.
Governments too can reap tax collection benefits from initiatives such as these, “I always tell people that these digital technologies can be as transparent or private as you want them to be….” This level of transparency can allow governments to efficiently track personal earnings and expenditure which in turn can result in lowered individual tax burdens as a larger percentage of the taxed revenue is actually collected. “So by instituting these technologies across the board, by having regulatory FIU [Financial Investigative Unit?] closely in touch with companies like Squeeze Cash … you can find that over time the average tax burden would fall and economic productivity should also pick up.”
Mobile money, as defined by a quick Google search, “is a technology that allows for people to receive, store and spend money using a mobile phone.” This is exactly how Squeeze Cash CEO Kenrick Quashie described the app’s basic functions at Tuesday’s launch. “Even though we are a ‘third world country’ we want to provide a first class and first world service,” he said while explaining that a $0.25 fee is charged for all in app transactions while $5.00 is charged any time a person wants to cash out his digital monies to his/her bank account.
This cash out fee he said “is really a barrier because we really want you to do is to keep your money onto the app and just use the app all the time [sic]. It [digital money] is as valid as the physical note you have in your pocket.”
The first phase of the application was rolled out in June of this year and one of its underlying features continues to be the ease with which persons can communicate with the developers. Quashie reminded the launch audience “the technology is our technology. We built it so we can make any twist and turns based on the views of our users, we’re very responsive.” Since the June unveiling a Squeeze Cash version 2 premiered taking into account the sundry reviews from users across multiple platforms.
Laverne King, marketing consultant and Tuesday’s host of the ceremony lauded this pioneering venture as part of a “new cashless movement in SVG” and the wider Eastern Caribbean region. She noted that the application was two thirds Vincentian owned and that it is a testament of young Vincentian entrepreneurial endeavour in finance technology.
St. Lucian Sunal Fontinelle is responsible for writing the Squeeze Cash codes. His counterpart, Ashley Mc Clean, handles the user interface and was on hand to demonstrate the app’s straight forward navigation style while pointing out a few of its eccentricities. The Squeeze Cash application allows users to connect to the social network and share transaction history online. This default setting is set to off though. Quick Response (QR) codes – the trademark for a type of a matrix barcode – are also used in-app to help facilitate and track online to store type transactions.
With a corporate theme that cites “the future of Caribbean finance” it is little wonder that this enterprise is being driven to expand across the wider Caribbean as the management team seeks to attract more users and offer other currencies. As for international purchases users are asked to await the launch of the Squeeze Cash debit card which is to be released early 2020. While in-app purchases to international merchants may not be permissible just yet the debit card is expected to be short to medium term solution.
And loading both the debit card, when it comes, and the Squeeze Cash digital wallet would be as simple as topping up one’s phone. This as Advanced Business Solutions, distributors of local phone credit have also partnered with the team to facilitate top ups. Cashing out, that is withdrawing monies from the digital wallet, would only be done via