The ACCC may have stifled their efforts to jointly negotiate with Apple, but that hasn’t deterred three of Australia’s big banks from joining forces to develop new digital banking products.

Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and National Australia Bank are working together to build the next generation of mobile payments and wallets in Australia, the banks announced today.

The first product created by the joint venture is a payment app called Beem that will let customers pay for things with their smartphone regardless of who they bank with. The app also lets users request payment from someone who owes them money or to split a bill.

The hope is that it will become an industry-wide payment solution, and is open to interest from other banks, industry, and retail players, the banks said.

According to Forrester Researcher analyst Zhi Ying Ng, “Australian consumers and merchants are looking for simpler, faster, and more convenient payment options, and I think Beem is going in the right direction especially with its promise of making payments real-time and providing an interoperable system for customers.”

“I expect Beem to be a success in scenarios where existing payment systems are slow, inconvenient or aren’t real-time, but will be slow to take off in scenarios where existing payment systems are already simple and convenient enough for consumers — for instance point-of-sale payments because Australian consumers are already so comfortable and used to paying with Tap and Go with their contactless cards, it would be a huge challenge to drive adoption in such scenarios,” she said.

The product launch comes after the ACCC ruled the banks couldn’t combine their efforts to jointly negotiate with or boycott Apple over the use of Apple Pay and the access to its NFC reader.

Beem will work on both iOS and Android smartphones, and will be compatible across devices and different banks – users won’t need to be customers of CBA, Westpac or NAB.

CommBank Group Executive of Retail Banking Services, Matt Comyn, said Beem will give Australians a simpler way to pay and request payments, a pain point for both consumers and small businesses.

“Two thirds of small businesses say they are owed money for completed work, with around $7,300 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,” Comyn said.

CommBank will conduct user testing of a Beem prototype, with the app to be available for download on iOS and Android smartphones later this year.

Beem will initially have a sending limit of $200 a day ($6,000 per month), with a monthly receiving limit of $10,000 as an initial risk control measure.

Westpac Chief Executive, Consumer Bank, George Frazis, said Beem expands payment choices for customers, and is the latest offering in Australia’s long history of innovative payment solutions, including EFTPOS, [email protected], chip, tap and pay, and wearable payment devices.

“We are committed to giving our customers more choice by supporting a range of convenient ways for them to pay and transfer their money. Customers will soon be able to ‘Beem’ free payments instantly using any smartphone, regardless of who they bank with and without the need to add account details. Innovations such as Beem and wearables are leading the way in payment solutions because they’re convenient, easy to use, and fit in with people’s lifestyles – we firmly believe in going to where our customers are and providing them with greater choice,” Frazis said.

The joint venture will be independently run, with a mandate to actively seek new participants to join the initial three participants. Future product initiatives beyond the payments facility are being planned, including digital wallet features and capabilities.

NAB Chief Operating Officer, Antony Cahill, said the bank is continually looking for opportunities to make banking easier, simpler, and more convenient for its customers, both consumers and businesses.

“Think about all the times you’ve gone out for dinner and split the bill – this app will make it easy for Australians to pay their family and friends instantly. Or, when you go to the local market and need to pay the butcher – this means instant payment through your phone. This is the industry working together to deliver an innovative payments solution, no matter who you bank with,” Cahill said.

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