PKO Polski bets on mobile replacing card formats
“Payment cards in their traditional plastic form will disappear sooner or later, much sooner than later,” according Wojciech Bolanowski, a managing director at PKO Polski.
Speaking at Teradata’s recent user group conference in Dallas, he predicted that mobile phone-based payment solutions, which the bank announced earlier this year, would eclipse cards by allowing bank customers to pay directly from their bank accounts, a prospect that he said terrifies Visa and MasterCard. Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, has some advantages over the US because it developed its payments infrastructure later and is not stuck with cheques as a dominant payment method.
Poland has never developed much of a credit card business, so the way has been clear for banks to launch mobile as a way to pay at shops, for e-commerce, person to person payments and ATM cash withdrawals.
The bank is now on its fourth generation mobile payments platform, as an application for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and more recently Windows Mobile. Bolanowski said Windows Mobile is very popular in Poland (where Microsoft says it outsells Apple phones). Most of the bank’s mobile customers are using mobile internet banking, but about 70,000 — including many early adopters, are now using the bank’s mobile application.
“A major advantage of the mobile over card payments is that your phone shows your account balances, so you can see if you can afford a cash payment or cash withdrawal,” Bolanowski said. “In friends and family, this was one of the most important functions.”
The bank has promoted mobile payments through advertising and through internal promotions using its Teradata CRM system. After launching its Windows version, it has seen activation of the app grow to about 700 new users a day, impressive because activating a banking app is more complex that downloading and using something like Angry Birds, he added.
“This is a success in a very innovative platform which has not very clear advantages over the card or cash, to be honest,” he said. Cash is still king in Poland, and even the plastic card which has been largely unchanged for 50 years, does well. He doesn’t expect the mobile app to replace either within the next few years. But eventually, he expects, the phone will become the dominant mode of payment, allowing people to access their bank accounts directly without using credit cards as an intermediary platform.
The bank promotes the cards through discounts at theatres and businesses like McDonald’s for customers who pay by phone.