Despite the surge of emerging payment technologies, consumer behavior is slow to change giving banks time to adjust.
"There is so much messaging out there about the threat of nonbanks in mobile payments, but it is worth looking to see where banks can complete and leverage some of their strengths," says Samantha Carrier, senior director of advanced payment solutions at Nacha, which manages the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network that is used to facilitate electronic payments.
Consumers are worried about the security of their personal information, and this concern provides banks with an opportunity to leverage the trust in their existing relationships to cross-sell mobile payments, Carrier says.
However, other industries are already trying to build on the trusted relationships they have with consumers to enroll them in mobile payments. Such mobile-payment initiatives include the retailer-driven Merchant Customer Exchange, the telecom-led Isis, and the credit unions' CU Wallet.
Each of these take a collaborative approach that is at odds with the banking industry's varied approaches.
"Banks don't cooperate with each other," says Leo Lipis, a payments consultant.
Through collaboration, banks may eventually have the advantage of real-time payment systems as a catalyst for mobile payments, person-to-person payments and e-commerce, he says. Real-time systems exist in parts of Latin America, Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Japan and a system is in progress in Australia.
Enrollment is considered key to the success of a mobile payments system because the enrolling party controls the use of the consumer data for loyalty, cross-selling and marketing.
"The enrollment side of things is certain if you have a more robust multi-bank mobile payments system," Lipis says.
Nacha's push to establish faster settlement timeswhich would aid in mobile payments developmenthas not been adopted by its membership.
Banks have an edge over startups in the variety of payment options they support, Carrier says. Banks can also lower barriers such as ATM access fees and initial deposit amounts, she adds.
Once consumer adoption of mobile payments takes off, new players can threaten banks' hold at the center of payments, and if banks are not flexible enough to embrace new payments innovation, bank accounts could lose their relevancy to consumers and businesses, Nacha says.
Nacha recently published a white paper outlining these ideas. "Banks need to understand the impact that payments convergence, alternative accounts, mobile payments, automated account switching and real-time payments have on consumer and corporate expectations, and they will need to leverage these trends to keep the bank account at the heat of the payments industry," Nacha says in its white paper.
Mobile payments, integrated e-commerce and payment products, and cloud-based payment services pose a competitive threat to banks because they offer improvements in usability and user experience, Nacha argues. Traditional bank services can be inflexible and require customers to adapt their needs to a productand banks also tend to silo different payment products, it says. By bundling payments with consumer data that's stored away from the phone, banks can position themselves as a central location to manage a variety of payment and loyalty relationships.
"These relationships that banks have make them an ideal platform for a mobile wallet," Carrier says.