Banks’ Mobile Payment Services Not Catching On

WFC: Wells Fargo logo
Wells Fargo

Banks have been increasingly looking at the mobile market in order to provide easy access for customers in a bid to attract more of the tech-savvy crowd. But is the public at large actually interested in these offerings? A recent survey suggests that customers actually prefer alternate providers over their banks, at least as far as the fledgling mobile payments market is concerned. [1] So where does this leave Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) who have already spent millions on developing and testing mobile payment solutions?

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Over the past few weeks, we published a few articles highlighting how focused some of the world’s largest banks are on technology – more specifically mobile technology – to make banking services more convenient to customers (see Barclays’ Pingit App Allows Users To Send Cash By Mobile Number and U.S. Bancorp Continues Innovating On Mobile Banking Solutions). Many of these services are actually provided by the banks for free so as to help increase their customer base. The banks stand to make money indirectly through the various other banking services and products they offer.

However, mobile payment services offer an all new playing field to the banks. Not only are they convenient for existing and potential customers, the banks also stand to earn fees from merchants who process the payments on a per-transaction basis – similar to the fees for processing credit card payments. It is therefore no surprise that the country’s biggest banks have been working hard to implement their own mobile payment systems, with many of them also partnering with leading mobile networks. Notably, Wells Fargo has been toying with smartphone payment systems since 2007 – something that it believes will help it earn more fee revenue in coming years.

Alternate Providers Preferred

Things aren’t all good for the banks in this market though, if the results of a recent survey by the Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group on customers’ preference on mobile wallets are to be believed. Banks are losing out to providers like PayPal  and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) as customers have voiced an overwhelming preference for these mobile-based payment solutions over those from their banks.

This points to a bigger problem for the banks than a mere loss in the mobile payments market. Incidentally, the payment systems from providers like PayPal and Google can be used by merchants as alternatives for bank-issued credit cards. This could be disastrous for banks, which make a substantial portion of their revenues by processing card transactions. You can understand the impact of a reduction in card fees on Wells Fargo’s value by making changes to the chart below.

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  1. Banks face competition on mobile wallets – study, Reuters, Jun 4 2012 []