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Bank launches mobile pay service

Online customers of NBAD can now wire money through their mobile phones and pay selected bills.

There is another reason not to leave your mobile phone in a taxi: it is now a banking tool. National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) launched a programme yesterday that allows its online customers to wire money through their mobile phones - even to people who are not NBAD customers - and to pay select merchants and organisations via a simple text message. "Banks are turning to mobile payment and banking because it is low cost in terms of a channel of service," said Ian Read, the general manager of the credit consulting company PIC Solutions. "It also helps banks differentiate themselves from competitors, as it is a value-added service."

Mashreqbank is expected to announce today a suite of online banking services that it says will enable customers to do everything they can do in a branch via their mobile phone. Two weeks ago, Dubai Bank launched a mobile phone programme that allowed consumers to use BlackBerries, iPhones and other high-end phones to do their banking services. Luup, a London-based company that services NBAD's mobile phone payment programme, is soliciting other banks in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to Thomas Bostrom Joregensen, the company's chief executive.

NBAD's Arrow service allows the company's 58,000 online users to pay their Etisalat and Abu Dhabi utility bills, and make payments to Abu Dhabi police, the Road and Transport Authority and the UAE Red Crescent Society. It will also allow NBAD customers to wire as much as Dh10,000 (US$2,700) to other NBAD bank accounts, and up to Dh500 to a non-NBAD account holder, who can retrieve the money from one of the bank's ATMs.

Ahmed al Naqbi, the senior manager of electronic banking at NBAD, said the company would not charge consumers for making mobile payments until at least mid-January. The company, he said, would increase the numbers of merchants participating in the programme and extend it to offer remittances and salary payments. The service is offered to the bank's online users because it requires the use of a PIN-generating security device, which those customers already use.

Farhan Waheed, the head of retail banking at Barclays, said the company would offer a mobile payments facility next year. Emirates NBD customers can make phone payments to merchants or move funds to other accounts within the bank. Mr Read said that more banks would increase their mobile services next year. "Once one bank offers it, others don't want to be left behind," he said. Mr Jorgensen said a mobile payments facility would enable banks and wireless operators to capture a greater share of remittance transactions, adding some $45 billion is sent from GCC countries to the Indian subcontinent each year.

He said banks only capture 15 per cent of that amount. "That's an untapped market." Even if you do leave your phone in a taxi, your banking secrets are safe because all transactions require a device that generates a new code every minute. Just make sure you don't leave that behind also. mjalili@thenational.ae

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