Jamaica’s Conec Sets Sail into the Sunset

December 4, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

We all likely knew that it was a matter of time until more mobile payments operations started departing the market. A huge number of competitors is already on hand, and it seems like more keep showing up, eager for their slice, no matter how small, of mobile payment market share pie. One recent departure came from the first mobile money service in Jamaica, Conec, started the process of shutting down operations.

Set up by the Jamaican Co-operative Credit Union League (JCCUL) way back in 2013, Conec was originally established as a means to build a mobile payments system on the island. Pretty forward-thinking when you stop and think about it, especially given that Apple Pay didn’t come out for about a year afterward. The project cost the league around $2 million to date, and the end result is a write-off for the group.

The JCCUL shuttered Conec, meanwhile, because the group determined that the island just wasn’t ready for mobile payments yet, and the overall ecosystem was going to need a lot more time to come about. In the meantime, the JCCUL found there were many other places more worthy of investment, and decided to put that cash to work therein instead.

Those who had cash in their Conec accounts were told to use said funds before November 30, or otherwise transfer said funds to the credit union accounts connected with the Conec account. Interestingly, several competitors were already on hand—GraceKennedy’s GK MPay and National Commercial Bank’s Quisk—that will continue to operate.

Large portions of the overall banking market are not only not ready, but are actively resisting the notion. This is particularly true for older folks who may neither have nor know how to use a smartphone. Banks—and credit unions—have to balance the desires of the younger generations who want to put mobile platforms to work in banking and other tasks against the needs of the older generations who prefer the direct personal contact of a person providing help at the branch level.

Though JCCUL is likely wrong in saying the market isn’t ready, it isn’t out of line to say the whole market isn’t ready. Parts of it are, but businesses are having a tough time making whole profitable lines out of parts of a market.