After a backlash from customers and a surprise switch in policy from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), it appears that all of Australia’s big banks will end up providing Apple Pay services to their users sooner rather than later.
Late last week, CBA joined ANZ in offering the service, and up until that point, Westpac and National Australia Bank (NAB) had seemed reticent to join them. However, CBA’s change of heart appears to have caught its rivals off guard and, in fear of losing customers, it seems likely that they will eventually allow payment facilitation through Apple Pay.
The so-called Big Four banks have somewhat reignited their rivalry after getting into trouble during the Royal Commission inquiry into financial misconduct, which saw them all face consequences for a series of mismanagement decisions and poor policies that encouraged sales over customer needs.
After keeping low profiles for some time except when they increased mortgage rates out of cycle, the Big Four have had little reason to be in the news recently. Now, their offerings for consumers have again come under the spotlight for more transparent reasons.
Three of the main banks, Westpac, CBA and NAB, originally sought to placate customers wanting to use Apple Pay with a counter-service called Beem It, but the future of this is now unclear, as the need for a direct imitation of Apple Pay may no longer be necessary.
Westpac has been quick to react to CBA’s decision last Friday. Its statement on Monday said that the bank always has the need to look at ‘how we help our customers with their mobile banking needs’ and that it is ‘open to considering Apple Pay in the future.’
The bank also said that it wants to address the “more than 2.5 million Westpac customers using mobile banking” and give them the type of service that they expect considering current technological capabilities.
Adding that customers need ‘tools to make their banking simpler and faster,’ Westpac acknowledged a series of measures that it has implemented to work toward this aim. These include ‘Westpac for iMessage, wearable payment devices and our recently launched Siri for Westpac as well as our joint venture with Beem It,’ according to the bank.
NAB was coyer with its intentions, saying that it understands the need to look into offering Apple Pay but remaining fairly tight-lipped about what its final decision will be. In a statement, NAB said: ‘When we have more to say about Apple Pay, we’ll let our customers know.’ However, its admission that it is aware of the demand suggests that changes could well be on the way.
As it does not want to be the only major bank left behind if all its competitors choose to take this path, NAB suggested that it is ‘looking at all options to provide our customers with access to safe and secure ways to make digital payments.’
The future for Beem It is uncertain, and the banks’ recent comments are interesting given that the joint venture between three of the Big Four only confirmed its CEO, Angela Clark, in the last couple of months. Beem It was set up as a direct competitor for Apple Pay, but with CBA set to abandon it and the other banks looking to keep pace, there seems less scope for long-term adoption.