In supporting the Square Wallet as a mobile payment option for its customers, U.S. Bank is taking a step that other financial institutions might view as embracing a competitor.
But that's what makes U.S. Bank different in its vision of the future of payments, says Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer for U.S. Bank Payment Services.
"Our perspective on this is that there are a number of different companies that we do business with in one space, but they may be considered a competitor in another space," such as merchant processing, Venturo says. "But we look at the big picture, thinking broadly about having our customers do business the way they want, not how we think they should."
The Minneapolis-based bank lists the Square Wallet among the mobile payment options on its website, encouraging customers to link their U.S. Bank credit, debit or prepaid accounts. Square Wallet allows consumers to make purchases through their smartphones at merchants that use Square's mobile card reader.
"We are hoping the customer will see that and will continue to do business with us," he says. "What we found is that giving our customers the information about these wallet options makes it easier for them to enroll."
Square Wallet lets users check in when they visit a merchant location to alert the cashier of their presence. When the customer brings items to the register, the merchant verifies their identity using the picture uploaded to the Square user's account.
Square can process the transaction from a linked U.S. Bank account, rather than providing payment details to the merchant each time, the bank says.
The listing with U.S. Bank helps Square pursue consumer adoption as the company battles PayPal, which has a similar mobile wallet, says Gil Luria, analyst with Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities.
"PayPal has its payments application on millions of consumers' phones, and Square probably has tens of thousands, so Square is trying to catch up to PayPal in that regard," Luria says.
Otherwise, the bank endorsement "doesn't change anything" because a tech-savvy U.S. Bank customer could have already linked U.S. Bank accounts to the Square Wallet app, Luria says.
U.S. Bank has positioned itself in the past as a financial institution keenly aware of mobile payment developments.
"We are very open-minded about helping our customers pay a certain way, at a certain time, at a certain place," Venturo says. "We've got a leadership team here that has a very broad, visionary perception of the future of payments."
Square, which did not respond to inquiries for this story prior to deadline, launched its mobile wallet in May of 2011 under the name of Card Case, but eventually changed the app's name.
Square redesigned its mobile wallet last month, providing merchants a better display for their store information and offers.
Square has also taken steps to serve larger merchants in addition to the micro-merchants it has targeted from the start with its mobile card reader.