Top Payment Systems Around the Globe: A Comparative Analysis

In one of our previous stories, as you might remember, we engaged with Growth of India’s UPI outshines the top P2P and P2M systems globally. You might recall that in the course of our research, we found that among the top 10 FinTech apps (by downloads) globally in 2018, were three UPI-based apps – Google Pay, PhonePe and BHIM. In that same story, we also uncovered that UPI grew 65.4% q-o-q over the last 9 quarters.

We made you, our readers, a promise that we would compare the world’s top P2P/P2M systems based on the first three years of their inception. So, in today’s story, we’ve taken our previous findings (transactional values of the last 9 quarters) and compared the top P2P/P2M systems based on the first 12 quarters of their inception.

Our Findings

  • In the initial years (Q2 2007 to Q1 2010), M-Pesa had an exemplary CQGR of 43.8%. The company’s transaction value grew from USD 0.014 billion in Q2 2017 to USD 0.76 billion in Q1 2010. In recent years, Q1 2017 to Q1 2019, the company has recorded a CQGR of 10.4%.
  • PayPal grew at a CQGR of 41.7% in its initial years, i.e., Q1 2000 to Q4 2002. As the company entered a more mature phase, the CQGR decreased to 6.3% for the period Q2 2017 to Q1 2019.
  • The newer entrant in the US digital payments segment, Zelle, backed by US banks, had grown at a CQGR of 14.2%. The transactions in Q3 2017 accounted for USD 60 billion, whereas in Q1 2019, the platform witnessed transactions worth USD 147 billion.
  • Venmo, a subsidiary of PayPal, has grown at a CQGR of 35.2% between 2013 and 2015 and then the growth rate decreased to 15.1% between Q1 2017 and Q1 2019.
  • UPI, the Indian Government-led digital payment initiative, has witnessed great success in India. The initiative grew at a CQGR of 151.4% between Q4 2016 and Q1 2019. The transaction value has grown from USD 0.005 billion to USD 50.4 billion during this time frame.

We were also intrigued by what led to the growth of the payment systems in their initial years, and accordingly, we analyzed each of the systems, as below:


PayPal is one of the greatest success stories of the web, and a great example of first-mover advantage. PayPal’s success could be attributed to the growth of e-commerce in 1999-2000. When PayPal met eBay, the number of accounts jumped from 12,000 to 2.7 million, a 224,000% increase in a span of just eight months (January 2000 to August 2000). PayPal received the bulk of its revenue from eBay purchasers who wanted a cheap and easy way of making payments to their suppliers. PayPal also adopted an aggressive marketing campaign where they deposited $10 into the users’ PayPal account and another USD 10 for each user that the current user recruited. The marketing campaign, along with rapid adoption among buyers and sellers, is what propelled PayPal’s growth at the time.


Venmo, now owned by PayPal, entered the market at the perfect time. In 2010, mobile phone penetration in the US surpassed 75% of the teen population (Pew, April 2010), and millennials were more inclined towards using mobile phones. During that time, cash was slowly becoming obsolete, and people were less inclined to write cheques than before. Venmo brought in place a P2P system, making it easy for anyone to sign up on the app and find the people they want to pay. Venmo also allowed users to share their transactions on Facebook, which helped in raising awareness and acquiring new users. Adding to the social component, Venmo’s UI/UX was clean, intuitive, and minimalistic, which made it easier for people to use the application to send money to each other.


Zelle, the bank-based peer-to-peer (P2P) platform has partnered with over 140 banks and credit unions. It should be noted that the success of Zelle is highly correlated with their partnership with banks and credit unions. Zelle encashed such partnerships to gain trust among users and to process instant P2P transfers. The digital payments network now works with Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo. Zelle has access to millions of consumers through its partnerships with banks and credit unions. A year after its launch, in 2018, the platform witnessed 436 million transactions, amounting to USD 120 billion. Zelle has also launched new ad campaigns to attract new users and appeal to millennials, helping steer them away from competitor platforms such as Venmo, Square, and PayPal. The firm is starting to air commercials during high-volume airtime, like the NFL playoffs and the Grammys. It will also be advertising across a range of networks including Bravo, MTV, and ESPN.


UPI’s growth could be attributed to the fact that it was backed by the Reserve Bank of India. In addition, leading brands such as Google, Flipkart, and PayTM created their own applications on the open architecture of UPI to increase the P2P/P2M transactions on the payment system. The companies which created their applications on UPI started competing with each other to take the lead in the total transactions in the country by marketing their applications and introducing cashback vouchers, which, in turn, is helping in the adoption of non-cash payments. This helps UPI stay successful.


The growth of M-Pesa in its initial years can be attributed to five significant factors:

  1. The Kenyan regulators were very progressive and enabled mobile money to take off, even as they kept a check on the financial and usage data of M-Pesa.
  2. Safaricom held more than 50% of the market share in 2007, and its strong national presence helped in scaling M-Pesa.
  3. M-Pesa was accessible to the common people through its agent network which grew from 300 initially to 17,653 by March 2010.
  4. People adopted M-Pesa in Kenya as it became a safe haven to store their money. In 2010, there were 11,986 instances of stealing and M-Pesa came as a savior with respect to citizens being able to store their money securely instead of using cash.
  5. Safaricom invested a lot in terms of marketing efforts and used radio, TV, and the internet to reach out to customers effectively.

Now, P2P/P2M systems around the globe have changed how we transact, leveraging the growing smartphone penetration to their advantage. This has made it convenient for many people to transact faster and has also made sending money a lot easier. All the five systems listed above can be seen growing due to their partnerships, along with the applications built on top of them.

M-Pesa has the agent network; UPI has Google Pay, PhonePe and BHIM; Venmo partnered with various providers such as GrubHub and Uber; Zelle partnered with leading banks and credit unions; and PayPal saw growth by partnering with eBay.

The growth of these systems is sure to continue, and we’ll keep revisiting this from time to time to track what happens!