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Beem it? Banks bet on new payments app

11:28am October 31 2017

Banks say Beem will provide another simple payment option for customers. (Getty)

Westpac has teamed with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank to develop new mobile payments and wallets, kicking off with the launch of a payment application enabling consumers and small businesses to instantly transfer cash for free.

The app, called “Beem”, will enable users with iOS and Android smartphones to initially send up to $200 a day, or $6000 per month, and receive up to $10,000, via various banks. Westpac, CBA and NAB said they were open to interest from other banks, industries and retail players, hoping Beem becomes an “industry-wide payment solution” for anyone with a global scheme debit card for a range of daily payments, such as splitting a restaurant bill or paying a small business.

Westpac chief executive, Consumer Bank, George Frazis, said mobile was a “mega trend” and Beem would provide another choice for payments “regardless of who they bank with and without the need to add account details”. CBA group executive, Retail Banking Services, Matt Comyn, added Beem would provide a simple option, noting that two thirds of small businesses claim to be owed money for completed work, including around $7300 owed to small traders.

“Beem will give small businesses a cost effective and easy way to collect payments instantly and on the go for their goods and services, without having to take the larger leap into using merchant credit facilities, or issuing invoices to be paid later,” Mr Comyn said.

NAB chief operating officer, Antony Cahill, added: “This is the industry working together to deliver an innovative payments solution, no matter who you bank with.”

The move comes amid rapid technological and competitive developments in the payments space, such as the entrance of large technology giants including Apple. Westpac offers Android Pay and Samsung Pay, and remains open to offering Apple Pay in the future.

While a recent Reserve Bank of Australia study found mobile payments made up a fraction of point of sale transactions last year, cards overtook cash as the most frequently used means of payment for the first time amid a surge in adoption of contactless payments.

Westpac on the weekend also unveiled the launch of “PayWear”, a wearable device allowing customers to make purchases on all contactless-enabled terminals just like tapping with a credit card or phone.

Beem, which will be tested by CBA before being available later this year, is the most recent example of industry innovation, (which includes payments systems BPAY and eftpos). A major new development for the industry next year will be the launch of the New Payments Platform, a brand new 21st century, real time, data-rich payments system being overseen by 13 financial institutions, including Westpac, NAB and CBA.

CBA, Westpac and NAB’s new mobile wallet joint venture will be independently run. “Future product initiatives beyond the payments facility are being planned, including digital wallet features and capabilities,” the banks said. Beem will benefit from bank-level security and encrypted user account information. Every transaction will be authenticated and subject to real-time fraud monitoring.

Michael Bennet was inaugural Editor of Westpac Wire from June 2017 to December 2021. He joined Westpac after more than 12 years in journalism, most recently at The Australian as the national newspaper’s banking reporter based in Sydney. Michael has worked at various News Corp publications and other media companies covering industries including financial services, resources, industrials, markets and economics. He is originally from Perth, Western Australia, where he also wrote across magazines covering the arts with a focus on music.

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