March 22, 2019 / 7:13 PM / 4 months ago

Exclusive: Mexico central bank says Uber, other firms interested in mobile pay system

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - Various companies in Mexico, including Uber Technologies Inc., have shown interest in using a new mobile payments system developed by the country’s central bank that seeks to promote financial inclusion, the head of the bank said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Central Bank Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon gestures during a conference at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) in Mexico City, Mexico January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Banco de Mexico Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon said in an interview with Reuters that the bank was seeking to educate companies about how the program could potentially be used.

Called CoDi, the platform would allow customers to make and receive payments through their smartphones free of charge.

When asked if Uber, the San Francisco-based ride-hailing firm, was one of the companies that had expressed interest, Diaz de Leon confirmed it had. But he noted that many prospective users were still trying to get to grips with how they might use CoDi.

“In general, I’d say there is lots of interest in understanding the platform,” Diaz de Leon said. “The idea is to listen to all of these potentially interested companies and see how we can... incorporate the biggest quantity of possible users to the platform. And they can be of all kinds.”

Uber in Mexico declined to comment.

The central bank has already been in touch with Amazon.com Inc and its Argentine rival, MercadoLibre, about adopting the system, the bank’s head of payments had told Reuters earlier this month.

CoDi was one of the focal points of the annual Mexican banking conference at the beach resort of Acapulco where banks promoted the use of the payments system.

Diaz de Leon also said that the service could potentially help companies harness data to better serve customers.

“We feel that it could be very useful for other companies that have big and powerful databases,” he said.

Mexico’s new leftist government under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is betting on financial technology to help lift people out of poverty in a country where more than 50 percent, an estimated 42 million people, lack bank accounts.

Broad acceptance of CoDi would mark an important step in its financial inclusion strategy.

Phone-based banking is popular in other emerging markets such as China, India and Kenya, and has been driven by user-friendly, affordable apps from private companies.

Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Dave Graham; Writing by Julia Love; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft

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