Even though nonbanks seem to be taking the lead in the mobile wallet race, U.S. consumers still put more trust in banks to protect their money.

"It's going to be difficult…for a startup to come in and dominate and take over something that's so fundamental," says Matthew Friend, managing director at Accenture Payment Services in North America.

While banks' reputations have suffered in the past several years, consumers and merchants feel banks have maintained a safe and sound network, Friend says.

"There's not so many new products coming online as much as it's going to be about the adoption and refinement of what's out there and letting the marketplace figure out the winners," says Friend.

While many large technology companies and startups have momentum with their products, Friend says, to drive real change these players must partner with financial institutions.

But it's not as clear whether consumers would prefer an entirely bank-owned payment product, says Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent. "You are likely to get different answers depending on how you phrase the question," he says.

Big banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have recently tested and launched new payments technology, but most other financial institutions seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach.  

More than 60% of U.S. consumers said it would be highly valuable to pay a merchant in-store or online directly from their bank account with a bank app on their smartphone or tablet, according to a survey by Celent. This capability is emerging in Europe and is a trend to watch for in the U.S. in 2014, says Bareisis.

In Poland, six banks have created a joint venture to develop mobile payments standards. The venture's app, IKO, generates a code linked to the consumer's bank account to pay at retailer's point of sale terminal.

In the U.K., payments provider Vocalink launched Zapp earlier this year. Zapp links a consumer's mobile phone number to a bank account allowing for real-time payments.

While banks still have a more credible position with consumers, PayPal has been in the market for long enough that it could be a potential disruptor in mobile payments, particularly if it makes the most of its recent acquisition of Braintree, Bareisis says.

PayPal rated at the top for trust over other nonbanks that enable payments, according to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, which surveyed nearly 10,000 consumers this year.

"I would also watch out for [Merchant Customer Exchange]," the mega-retailers' mobile wallet venture, says Bareisis. "To me they are an embodiment of a trend that signals the shift in power away from issuers and networks to consumers and merchants, and away from open wallets to 'contextual payments,' where payments are embedded in a broader digital experience created by retailers, technology companies, banks and others."

Likening payments to plumbing, Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst at Celent, says, "One important thing to remember is that consumers don't buy payments—they're a means to an end—and there is an assumption that bank payments are a given."

The hard part for payments startups is getting consumers and merchants—both sides of the equation—to adopt, says Lodge.

"Most innovations so far have been at the edges of the bank infrastructures simply because no one has been able to afford to replicate the existing networks and at some point, money has to get in and out of the existing networks," Lodge says. "I see, therefore, the threat to banks coming from disintermediation by third parties, with banks potentially reduced to being the rails the resulting transaction runs over."

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