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Australian banks consider radical payments scheme

Australian financial institutions are considering a radical initiative that could see BPAY codes trump bank account numbers.

Codenamed MAMBO (Me and My Bank Online), the top-secret BPAY proposal could deliver the bank account portability that Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan so desperately wants Australian consumers to enjoy.

Instead of a bank account number and BSB, individuals would register for their own BPAY code which could be used to facilitate payments. Consumers could then port their number from bank to bank without the need to re-establish direct debits or credits, and use it to enable online payments.

Online Banking Review has confirmed with BPAY general manager Andrew Arnott that the MAMBO project exists.

Arnott says the proposal would facilitate a “Universal address for customers at their Internet bank.”

  “From that flows a lot of consumer possibilities.” 

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been pushing the banking industry to provide more payments alternatives for consumers shopping online. It is also overseeing industry initiatives to make switching bank accounts easier, following pressure from the Federal Government. 

Some commentators are already calling the switching package a failure arguing it doesn’t go far enough to make the major banks more competitive.

Melbourne Business School economics professor Joshua Gans has been calling on the Rudd Government to legislate the transfer of ownership of account numbers and loan balances from banks to customers. 

The new scheme would help the industry defend itself against claims that switching is too hard, and at the same time demonstrate it is capable of innovating to offer online payments methods beyond credit cards. 

Arnott denies portability is a major driver behind the initiative but says “If portability can be addressed in some small way with what we’re doing then that would be great.” 

BPAY has shown in the past it is capable of bringing the major players together to deliver system innovation, something the Australian Payments Clearing Association has struggled to do despite pressure from the Reserve Bank. 

Getting the major players to agree on the eventual shape of the new service could prove challenging, and then there’s the need to build a viable business case, which means it’s highly likely the service will come at a cost to consumers. 

Arnott confirmed with Online Banking Review the group is in discussions with industry participants about enhancing the relevance of BPAY for banks, but said it was too early to speculate as to the eventual consumer applications it might facilitate. 

He also moved to hose down any speculation that the proposal involves an “identity number” telling Online Banking Review it would in fact be exactly the opposite and would not be sensitive from a privacy perspective.


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 May, 2008, 02:33Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I take it that this would mean yet another identifier whizzing around the internet etc, and one which is more indelibly linked to the consumer, as opposed to a card number which can be cancelled and re-issued without too much inconvenience? 

So instead of cancelling your card when there are issues (and there will be), you have to cancel your BPAY and re-institute all your payment arrangements with the new BPAY number? 

Consumers will still use credit(cards) but I suppose it might mean that your debit card number wasn't whizzing around the net although I see it has the potential for greater problems if your root payment account is your BPAY account, with mortgages, loans, overdrafts etc. linked?

Probably more fees, possibly just to BPAY instead?

Where, or do the merchants fit in?

Will there be a BPAY card?

Is there actually any net gain for the consumer in this?

We don't have enough data so of course we'll have to wait and see.

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

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A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

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