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Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon to lead m-payments gold-rush?

09 March 2012  |  13990 views  |  3 Fingers on smartphone keypad

Technology giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are well positioned to cash in on the upcoming mobile payments bonanza thanks to their reputation for innovation but still have trust and privacy-related hurdles to overcome if they are to convince Americans to pick them over more traditional financial services providers, according to a report from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google - the 'gang of four' - have been driving forces behind a new technology cycle, dominated by the mobile phone and social media, which is merging the online and physical worlds, says Javelin.

These huge companies are now seeking to use their strengths to crack a payments market currently led by financial institutions, card schemes and, increasingly, wireless carriers.

In a bid to predict the potential success of the competing factions, Javelin polled 5878 Americans to gauge public opinion on what it claims are three crucial ingredients for success: trust, innovation and privacy.

Asked who they most trust with their financial information, respondents show a clear preference for the established players over technology firms: Visa tops the list with 28%, while American Express, Chase Bank, Mastercard and Bank of America all receive 17%.

In contrast, Amazon is the top choice for 11%, Apple five per cent, Google four per cent and Facebook just two per cent. However, in an encouraging sign for the technology firms, the second spot in trust belongs to a firm that straddles the two worlds; PayPal is the most trusted holder of financial information for 23%.

The 'gang of four' fair far better when it comes to innovation, with Apple topping the poll, picked by 32%, ahead of Google with 19% and Facebook and PayPal on 14%. Visa scores best among traditional players, with 13%, while US Bank comes bottom with two per cent.

Asked about privacy, Visa again wins with respondents, chosen by 31% ahead of PayPal on 26% and American Express on 26%. Amazon scores best among the tech firms with 13%, ahead of Apple on seven per cent, Google, five per cent and Facebook on three per cent, ahead of bottom placed Sprint.

Javelin argues that traditional financial services providers could still be in the driving seat because, asked about their own banks, respondents are extremely positive.

Over three quarters of US Bank customers pick it as the most trusted brand to handle their financial information, with similar percentages seen at Chase, Wells Fargo, BofA and Citi among their customers. The results are nearly as high when bank customers are asked about privacy at their provider. More surprisingly, Americans consider their banks innovative; 37% of Chase customers think it is the most innovative brand in the survey, more than the 35% which pick Apple.

However, overall, none of the five banks, five payment networks, three wireless carriers or four tech giants covered in the poll secure a place in Javelin's 'gold zone', although PayPal comes closest.

The report argues that this means that collaboration is vital: "To enjoy widespread success and adoption, firms will need to partner together to bring to market new financial products and services that play off each other's strengths and weaknesses. The best competitors will match their greatest weaknesses with their partners' greatest strengths to provide the highest value for consumers."

This is advice already being followed in several cases, with Google teaming with MasterCard and Citi for its mobile Wallet system and telcos bringing on board card schemes and banks for the upcoming Isis project.

Banks may be lagging the Internet giants in the rush to push new tech on the high street, but consumer apathy would appear to be playing the bank's favour, with a new Harris poll of US consumers finding only a quarter of smartphone owners notionally comfortable with the idea of loading their credit card details onto a mobile wallet.

Comments: (3)

David Abbott
David Abbott - PayCommerce - London | 09 March, 2012, 13:37

I am not clear what the mobile payments 'Bonanza' is likely to be.... so far its been more of a moneypit.  This report seems to indicate that mobile operators and web players are going to struggle to become trusted by significant numbers of people with financial data

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Stephen Greiff
Stephen Greiff - Afb - Cape Town | 10 March, 2012, 12:55 Possibly better to think of a Big 5 - including PayPal!
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Jan-Olof Brunila
Jan-Olof Brunila - Swedbank - Stockholm | 12 March, 2012, 09:05

Talking of payments in the open market, the main feature is to transfer the monies from payer institution to payee institution safely, accurately and swiftly. As long as the general population is holding their salary monies in bank accounts, these accounts need to be used for such a transfer. The exception is the credit account, where a credit line is provided for the payer but the payee still wants to see the payment deposited in an account accessible for all kind of cost payments and other purposes - i.e. a general bank (current) account. Thereby only two main money transfer methods for then open market exist in the post industrial countries, the credit transfer and the international card scheme payment. It may take some time before the general population have their salary accounts with Facebook or Google instead of in retail banks. Paypal again builds on the logic that the entire world are customers in that particular institution enabelling intra institution transfers. New mass market credit accounts for mobile payments instead of the existing credit cards would demand huge funding and equity back-up and it is not likely that mobile/internet companies could manage such an undertaking. Last but not least there is the question of business model or who pays for the payment in a world with billions of users and millions of merchants in hundreds of countries operating with multiple currencies. Therefore most of the success issues on mobile payments are going to be on how bank accounts and debit and credit cards can be used with a mobile phone as access device. New service providers may be needed to complement the credit transfer and card payment networks but they will hardly replace the role of the retail banks.   

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