Bank of the West waited until the fall of 2016—many months longer than most banks—to offer its customers any mobile wallet. And when it did finally join the mobile wallet craze, it went all in.
The San Francisco-based bank supports a total of five third-party mobile wallet choices: Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Masterpass and Microsoft Wallet. This is two more than most banks typically offer, making Bank of the West a bit of an anomaly, according to Paul Appleton, executive vice president of consumer banking products and payment solutions.
“As far as we know, we’re the only U.S. bank offering this many mobile wallets and one of the few supporting Microsoft Wallet,” Appleton said.
The main catalyst was EMV — or rather, the backlash against EMV. The bank needed to offer an alternative to EMV-chip cards after customers began complaining about slower checkout times, Appleton said.
“We realized our customers could get through checkout lines faster with mobile, and we wanted to give them all the mobile wallet options we could as quickly as possible,” Appleton said.
Bank of the West launched Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay in September 2016, followed by Masterpass in November and Microsoft Wallet in December.
This is a major change from Bank of the West's earlier pace for mobile. It was in no rush to integrate its credit and debit cards with Apple Pay immediately after its launch in October 2014 because consumer demand initially was very low and relatively few merchants supported NFC payments, Appleton explained.
But those dynamics began to shift last year, in part because of the 2015 liability shift to EMV, according to Appleton. Visa recently said 1.81 million U.S. merchants supported EMV at the end of 2016, double the number from a year earlier.
As of now, 6% of the bank’s customers have enrolled in a mobile wallet, with 78% opting for Apple Pay, 12% for Samsung Pay and 10% for Android Pay. Masterpass has drawn about 100 Bank of the West customers using its mobile wallet, and about 60 are using Microsoft Wallet.
“The number of customers using Microsoft Wallet is very small, but Microsoft is a huge company already adding payments to more devices and we think it will be important to support it alongside the others,” Appleton said.
Bank of the West, which operates 600 branches in 23 western U.S. states—with a critical mass of locations in smaller cities and towns—has no plans to mimic larger banks like Capital One and Wells Fargo by introducing its own digital wallet, Appleton said.
“We’re don’t see any customer interest in a proprietary wallet, and as a regional bank operating in a lot of rural areas, it makes more sense for us to work with existing branded wallets that create a network marketing effect on their own,” Appleton said.
Bank of the West’s customers have had a positive response to its support of multiple third-party mobile wallets.
“Our customers were very vocal about demanding mobile wallets when we had none, and they’re equally vocal in their support now, raving in feedback and on social media about it all the choices,” Appleton said.
During the third quarter of this year, Bank of the West also plans to launch Zelle, Early Warning’s P-to-P payment platform developed by banks.
“Mobile payments is a fast-evolving space, and different banks will have different timelines for each of these services based on their market and customers,” Appleton said.
BancWest Corp.’s Bank of the West is a subsidiary of Paris-based BNP Paribas.