Credit Unions Pilot CU Wallet
Credit unions said they tested CU Wallet in a number of pilots late last year. The credit union-owned payment system is on track to go live in as early as April 2015, CEO Paul Fiore said.
At the $440 million PrimeWay FCU in Houston, SVP Michelle Oshinski said employees easily downloaded and installed the CU Wallet app and were sent to Subway to make purchases that went off without a hitch.
“This was a breeze,” Oshinski said, adding that “no employees reported discomfort with using the app.”
At the $2.1 billion Washington State Employees Credit Union in Olympia, Wash., SVP Ben Morales said that his institution, too, had been testing CU Wallet with a limited number of employees, also primarily at Subway.
The goal, he said, was to develop what he called a “knowledge base” that will anticipate member confusion and missteps when CU Wallet is launched to the credit union’s full membership.
“I watch people when I am out shopping. The sheer magnitude of people with phones in their hands is amazing. People are ready for this,” Morales said.
At the $714 million One Nevada Credit Union in Las Vegas, Executive Vice President Paul Parrish also said his institution had been piloting CU Wallet. He reported that so far, tests conducted by limited numbers of employees resulted in no significant hitches.
Read more: Will merchants accept CU Wallet?
Merchant acceptance is the possible bump in CU Wallet’s path, Mary Monahan, executive vice president at Javelin Strategy + Research said.
Monahan stressed that she continues to think financial institutions are in the best position to win the looming wallet wars because consumers appear to want to trust financial institutions with their money more than they want to use non-banks such as Facebook.
Unlike Apple Pay, CU Wallet’s payments technology is supplied by Auburndale, Mass.-based Paydiant and is not NFC based. According to Paydiant co-founder Chris Gardner, most merchants will not have to make a point of sale hardware upgrade to accept the cloud-based system.
“All the merchant needs is new software, Gardner said.
Paydiant technology is already deployed across the Subway sandwich shop empire, a fast food chain second in volume only to McDonald’s, according to a tally by QSR Magazine. Paydiant is also the technology tapped by CurrentC, the mobile payments tool from the Wal-Mart led Merchant Customer Exchange.
Acceptance at Subway is not a broad enough platform for any wallet, obviously. But signing up merchants one by one is labor intensive, multiple experts said. Even Apple so far seems daunted by the task of persuading apathetic merchants to climb aboard mobile payments.
Because of CU Wallet’s Paydiant roots, the CUSO may have a wild card to play.
“We believe they will try to get into MCX. That is a good plan,” Monahan said.
Payments expert Richard Crone shared similar thoughts.
“Anybody working with multiple financial institutions – that means CU Wallet – needs to be working on a deal with MCX,” he said.
For its part, CU Wallet neither confirmed nor denied that it is pursuing an alliance with MCX.
More broadly, Fiore said, “We will have to work to bring on new merchants that accept CU Wallet.”
Individual credit unions, too, may seek to involve merchants, Fiore said.
Merchants will also be able to offer deals, discounts and rewards to CU Wallet users, he said, and that may appeal to many merchants that are looking to tap into the power of the mobile phone.