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VocaLink to maintain UK database of mobile numbers for bank payments platform

21 February 2012  |  17888 views  |  6 Is Bank m-banking

The UK Payments Council has commissioned VocaLink to build a central database that will allow bank customers to link their mobile phone number to their account for person-to-person mobile payments.

This database is 'phase one' of the Payments Council's mobile payments strategy and is expected to be implemented before the year is out. Chris Dunne, strategy director at VocaLink, says that the mobile numbers database will be available to any UK bank or building society, which is a member of Faster Payments or the Link ATM network. The database will be populated by bank customers who have 'opted' to provide their bank with their mobile number as part of the database project.

Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the Payments Council, says that he believes UK banks will start to develop their own proprietary mobile payments apps in parallel with the building of the VocaLink-managed database.

Dunne demonstrated what a person to person payment, using a bank app, 'might' look like, once the database platform is available, to Finextra today. Mock bank apps were used - from 'Alpha Bank' and 'Beta Bank' - to facilitate the faux payments on demonstration iPhones.

Conspicuously absent from the Payments Council's demonstration was Barclays Bank, which launched a person-to-person payments app, Barclays Pingit, late last week.

Quizzed on why the Payments Council chose to showcase a mock, demonstration-only, bank app, rather than a live mobile payments app from a UK bank, Kamellard responded: The Barclays app is for Barclays customers only, while the Payments Council platform will serve as the infrastructure for banks to develop their own commercial payments apps that will enable payments between disparate bank accounts.

Barclays, which claims to have logged 20,000 downloads of PingIt in the first three days after its launch, plans to open up the app to all UK bank and building society account holders next month. Barclays is also generating interest from small traders who want to use the app to conduct money transfer transactions with customers.

Richard Martin, head of innovation at the Payments Council says that mobile payments apps, supported by the Vocalink database, will focus on person-to-person payments initially and move on to support retail payments at 'small merchants who do not have card facilities.'

He adds that payments supported by this developing infrastructure included person-to-person, person-to-business and business-to-person payments.

Comments: (6)

Tim Lambertstock
Tim Lambertstock - Handelsbanken - London | 21 February, 2012, 23:32

Infrastructure like this may not be as sexy as smart phone apps but is absolutely what is needed to build a robust foundation to move mobile payments beyond pilots. We know this from the history of payments.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 22 February, 2012, 09:16

Smart move by the Payments Council but if they had announced this before last year's attempt to phase out cheques, things might have gone differently

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Michael Fuller
Michael Fuller - None - London | 22 February, 2012, 10:06

This seems sensible but lets hope that the system is capable of holding any Mobile number (e.g. non UK ones as some customers will have a mobile that isn't from the UK). I also hope that unlike the Barclays scheme it's possible to link more than one mobile to an account number so joint account customers can each send and receive funds.

Finally security of the database will be paramount as any database of accounts and associated mobile phones will be a goldmine for fraudsters.

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Nick Collin
Nick Collin - Collin Consulting Ltd - London | 22 February, 2012, 10:14

Excellent initiative!  Faster Payments is one of the great unsung achievements of the UK payments community and it's about time they started building added value services on top of it.  But what's the story behind Barclays jumping the gun with Pingit?  Does anyone know?

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 22 February, 2012, 13:52

Props to VocaLink. Hopefully, the new payment app will not restrict sending of payments to those who have pre-registered for the service and will follow the PayPal strategy. As many readers might recall, when PayPal launched its ePayment service over a decade ago, it went viral by not insisting that recipients must be pre-registered with PayPal. It rightly surmised that, once they receive a "you've got money" type of message, most recipients would be far more eager to sign up for the service than signing up in advance without knowing whether they'd ever get money into their account or not. IMHO, by insisting that both sender and receiver must be pre-registered for PingIt, Barclays is missing out on the opportunity to accelerate adoption.  

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 20 August, 2012, 13:46

I think Pingit evolved.  I registered - was not a Barclays customer before but I guess I am now.  I can pay a person by phone number (they get a text and have to join to get it!).  Or a participating business, or scan a code, or enter a registered short-code.  So the options have extended but still not had cause/opportunity to actually use it.

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