Barclays to merge BPay, Pingit products as banks fend off Apple

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Barclays is preparing to merge its wearable mobile payments product BPay with its more popular Pingit app, after it struggled to attract users.

The two products currently require retail customers to download and maintain two separate apps — one for Pingit, which supports peer-to-peer transactions and international money transfers, and another for BPay, which lets people top up prepaid credit onto wearable accessories for making contactless payments.

BPay launched a wearable band or key fob in 2014, before the U.K. rollout of Apple Pay. But while Pingit currently has 3.6 million users, BPay has users "in the high tens of thousands," a Barclays spokeswoman said in a statement.

The merger comes as retail banks try to adapt to the needs of consumers increasingly used to using their smartphones to manage their finances. Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley said in October that the industry needs to defend its advantage from more lightly regulated tech companies such as Amazon and Apple, calling payments “the battleground of finance over the next 15 years.”

Device-makers are paying attention to the trend too. Bloomberg reported last May that Apple and Goldman Sachs were developing a cobranded credit card as a way for the investment bank to deepen its push into consumer finance, and for the tech giant to play a bigger role in how its customers manage their finances.

Challenger banks such as the U.K.’s Monzo are also making it harder for Britain’s established consumer-banking industry, by creating digital-only retail products that only exist on smartphones.

Barclays partnered with a number of watch brands, including Guess and Timex, in a bid to capture the growing market for wearables. BPay users, including those with partner products featuring an embedded BPay chip, will be moved to the Pingit app, according to the statement.

Bloomberg News
Mobile wallets Mobile payments P-to-P payments Barclays U.K.