by George Nott

Bankwest employees trial wearable contactless payments tech

Aug 31, 2017
Collaboration SoftwareFinancial Services IndustryInnovation

Bankwest has begun a “toe in the water trial” of wearable payments tech.

Over the next 12 weeks around 400 employees of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia division will test the technology out in the field.

The volunteers have chosen either a key fob, fitness-style wristband or a clip attached to their own watch strap, which they can tap for contactless payments linked to their card.

“We’re really excited by where this toe in the water trial could take us. We need to continually evolve and adapt to meet the quickly changing needs of our customers,” said Bankwest managing director Rowan Munchenberg.

“Our customers’ lives are so varied and so we need to look at offering a range of payment methods that fit their lifestyles. Students, self-employed, FIFOs, retirees, regional or metro – there really can’t be a one size fits all approach anymore.”

The trial was borne out of one of Bankwest’s frequent ‘hack days.’

“The hack days empower colleagues to let their creative juices flow. It’s so inspiring to see people’s imagination light up and work collaboratively to improve our customers’ experiences with us,” Munchenberg added.

Bankwest configuration engineer Minh Dang was part of the team that came up with the concept.

“When the idea of these wearables came up at the Hack Day people got really excited. It’s so great to see it now becoming a reality in the trial. There’s not many places where you can see something start at such a small level and then become a reality,” Dang said.

As part of the trial, the bank said it will collect data on how people used the technology in conjunction with the contactless feature on their existing cards and digital wallets.

“We think we’ll see people starting to adapt to whatever comes to hand most easily,” Munchenberg said.

“If they’re buying petrol and have their keys in their hand they may well pay with their key fob. If they’re out for a run and stop for a drink they could swipe their wristband. The technology is just as secure as in people’s cards – it’s just in a different form,” he added.

Although there was a view to eventually offer customers wearable payment devices, the bank made no firm commitment to do so.

Chip on your shoulder?

In March, Westpac said it was running a similar trial with employees, and had plans to release a payments wristband later this year.

In April, Heritage Bank beat the bigger banks to be the first in Australia to run a customer trial of a wearable payments device that links directly to a transaction account.

Forty Heritage customers have now tested the technology, following a successful staff trial earlier in the year. The bank aims to launch the product later this year.

Back in 2014 Heritage released a limited run of 12 contactless payment ‘Payweave Power Suits’ with a payments chip located in the merino wool blazer sleeve.

Visa has also been putting contactless payments chips in various wearables includinga pair of sunglasses.