Bangkok Bank Public Co. Ltd. hopes to take advantage of Thailand's easy financial infrastructure to enable a number of new payment options, such as cross-institutional person-to-person payments made from a mobile phone or an ATM.
"Thailand's banking system is much different than the U.S. where there are so many banks, which makes interoperability difficult. In Thailand we have about 30 banks," says Ian Guy Gillard, executive vice president of the technology division at Bangkok Bank, the country's largest bank with about 17 million customer accounts.
Banks in Thailand share an ATM transaction switch that communicates with the banks' core processing systems. The switch and processing communication capabilities are leveraged as a common way for banks to verify the accounts used in cross-bank transactions executed in all automated channels. This way, mobile banking and payments products can operate among banks with less friction, Gillard says.
"With payments you can do things here that would be difficult to do in the U.S. because of the complexity of the U.S. banking market," Gillard says.
For example, the bank's planned P2P product will operate similar in concept to the U.S.'s clearXchange, which enables customers of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and other participants to send money to each other by entering a recipient's email address or mobile phone number. Bank of Bangkok's P2P service will work with any bank in the country that uses the common ATM switch.
"People in the U.S. are always amazed at how easy that works here," says Gillard, who worked for Bank of America in San Francisco earlier in his career.
In the case of Bank of Bangkok's P2P effort, consumers will register payees for initial transactions, and payees subsequently appear on the bank's mobile banking app as favorites. Clicking a favorite's name commences the payment to the recipient's bank account, which is verified by the common ATM switch.
"It's very fast, you can log in to mobile banking in three seconds and the payment can happen in two seconds," Gillard says.
The bank also plans to deploy P2P payments at the bank's network of about 9,000 ATMs around the country, Gillard says.
Bank of Bangkok plans to expand its payments services outside the country to neighboring markets such as Cambodia, Gillard says. It is also considering mobile contactless payments and other types of transactions.
The bank also plans to deploy a mobile bill payment product that uses images of the standard bar codes that are on bills in Thailand.
The payments initiatives at Bangkok Bank are part of a broader mobile technology strategy at the financial institution, which is using Fiserv's Mobiliti Edge mobile banking product to enable consumers to access financial information and conduct transactions via Android, iOS, and Blackberry handsets. The technology also supports on-device activation, with services including balance queries, ATM locators and prepaid top-up.
Mobiliti Edge is designed for international financial institutions and can allow more functions to be added over time, says Serge van Dam, segment leader of digital channels for Fiserv's international group.
"The digital banking deployment has just started for financial institutions, it's not a destination," he says.
Thailand's state-owned telecom is planning to introduce a Near Field Communication-based mobile payment system this year.