WASHINGTON — Jovial bonhomie reigned as the three peer-to-peer payments panelists reunited in the minutes before their session started at the BAI Retail Delivery conference at the Washington Convention Center.
The three – Arkady Fridman from PayPal, Sanjeev Dheer, the leader at Fiserv’s CashEdge, and John Feldman, general manager of clearXchange, the p2p vehicle of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo – also had been on the BAI panel in Las Vegas in March.
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And then when the moderator opened the session on Wednesday, the gloves were off and the battle lines drawn. Do consumers want a “bank-centric” P2P solution? Dheer and Feldman unsurprisingly thought so. Fridman unsurprisingly thought not – “they want a customer-centric solution,” he said.
Dheer, meantime, proclaimed he had “had an epiphany. We don’t like the term ‘P2P.’ We analyzed a year’s worth of transactions” – Dheer said CashEdge has a foothold in some 1700 financial institutions – “and what we found was a wholly new category of transactions. They are more personal. More social. We have chosen to begin calling them social payments. They are gifts, to pay rent, sharing expenses, so many categories. I was taken aback by the breadth of what people are using this for.”
Dheer added, “They see this as a core banking function.”
Fridman countered that in fact PayPal has – “for three and one-half years” – worked very hard to partner with banks on P2P. “What does a bank centric solution mean? We are channel agnostic. We see ourselves as a strategic partner to financial institutions. What we are talking about is digitizing the P2P payments that already occur via cash and checks.”
Feldman, meantime, played a largely silent role, a role he had earlier played in Las Vegas. He did note that “the banks have a strong view that this has to be bank centric.”
He did not elaborate on the readiness of the three big clearXchange banks to invite other institutions to play in their sandbox. But he did note that, together, the three mega banks “own 50% plus of online and mobile banking.”
The one idea all three agreed on: P2P can be a revenue generator for financial institutions. Sometimes. In some cases. Expedited payments seemed to strike all three as something that could be charged for. Whereas the idea of charging for a $25 birthday gift to be delivered next week to a grandchild seemed ever more fanciful, even to these three panelists.
The one clear takeaway: many financial institutions seem genuinely to dislike PayPal. But it is not going away.