Citibank has contrasted Google's open platform approach to mobile payments with the gatekeeper role adopted by the Isis consortium, complaining that the telcos are hampering the development of NFC to the detriment of other market participants.
Speaking at a packed BAI Retail Delivery session on mobile payments, Dickson Chu, global head of digital networks and mobile at Citi, argued that the contactless mobile payments venture set up by major US network operators was a divisive distraction to the ultimate goal of mass-market m-payments.
"It's unclear what they are trying to achieve, other than extract a toll as gatekeepers," he said. "There's so much more that they could do...as it is they are just hampering the development of NFC as a mass-market commercial proposition."
Citi has been actively involved in the development of Google's mobile wallet strategy, which at launch is available only to consumers in possession of a Citi MasterCard or Google-branded pre-paid MasterCard.
Chu says Citi has learned a lot from its close involvement with the search engine giant in the use of rapid application development and Web optimisation techniques, for instance, but that Google has also benefited from Citi's knowledge of the regulatory environment and the hidden complexities of payments processing.
"Google is not interested in payments," Chu re-iterated. "It wants banks involved."
Google is going to publish a set of open APIs to the Wallet platform so that any bank can participate. "There is no exclusivity and no hidden fees," said Chu, urging other banks at the conference to: "Get ready. Get your technology ready. The Wallet is open. Participate."
Chu, recruited by Citi from PayPal to kickstart the banks' innovation push in its retail card business, is an unashamed advocate of mobile payments, claiming that the technology is destined to replace cash in the longer-term.
His fellow panellists, from US Bank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, were less outspoken, but all agreed that the past year had brought a sea-change in thinking on mobile payments, with the convergence of payments, secure ID, and loyalty offers on a single device creating new opportunities for banks to drive incremental value.
By contrast, their collective vow of silence on the Isis initiative spoke volumes.