Swedish Swish

A Most Successful Mobile Payment Service

Swish_lTo “Swish”. It’s the hottest new verb in the Swedish vocabulary. Could it go global?

Swish is a cleverly branded and astutely marketed mobile money transfer system. It’s been developed and supported by a consortium of about a dozen Swedish banks, and is used by both enterprises and consumers. Swish’s Web site states that the service now has almost 3.6 million users and, in October 2015, the equivalent of $515 million was sent via Swish. In a country of 9.5 million people, Swish has surpassed critical mass. It’s become a part of the Swedish economy.

To begin using the service, new users first connect their mobile number to a bank account. They can then send or receive money in near-real time via the dedicated Swish app by using the phone number as the identifier, and both parties receive confirmation of payment. A version of the app is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

The country has seen a Western mobile payment success story, with about one in three Swedes using Swish. The service began as a way for individuals to send money to each other, but a growing number of small businesses are now accepting Swish as a debit or credit card substitute. Some stores say that up to half of their revenue now comes through the service.

Swish’s success is happening as Apple, MasterCard, PayPal, Samsung, Square and Visa look to establish mobile payment ecosystems. But part of Swish’s success lies in its software-based infrastructure, meaning that no new point-of-sale terminals are required. Swish’s cloud-based clearing house combines with a free app and a mobile data connection to create one of the smoother mobile payment systems to date.

There’s a notable grant here to mobile operators: Swedish banks are making mobile churn at least a little less likely by relying on phone numbers as identifiers. Swish users aren’t locked into mobile numbers, but there’s an effort required to change.

Swish is a mobile finance success story that could grow beyond its Swedish roots. Cash is becoming a thing of the past among young Swedes, and Swish is the talk of the town.

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