Bank of America Says ‘No’ to BofA Pay (For Now)

Bank of America cardless ATM withdrawalBank of America said “No” to innovation labs last year. This year, while rivals JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co. are bringing wallets to market, BofA is looking instead to the surrounding ecosystem.

“We want to be in an open wallet ecosystem,” Hari Gopalkrishnan, client-facing platforms technology CIO at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Bank Innovation. “It’s an open wallet strategy.”

The bank’s site backs this up: its digital wallet page is essentially an ad for Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and Apple Pay, as well as Visa Checkout.

The image at right shows a Bank of America card working in Samsung Pay to enable a cardless ATM withdrawal, and the bank announced last week at Google I/O that it works with Android Pay for the same purpose.

Rather than focusing on a wallet of its own, Gopalkrishnan said, Bank of America is focused on a seamless customer experience, with the understanding that security, privacy, and reliability are table stakes.

“How channels come together — a seamless bridge from mobile to the call center, for example — is critical,” Gopalkrishnan said. “The customer experience has to span channels, and our focus has to be not channels or products but customers.”

For this reason, Bank of America took a wait-and-see approach with buzzy features until the experience was good enough. For example, cardless ATM withdrawals have been available for several years in the industry, but BofA held back until last week. Why?

“Two things happened,” Gopalkrishnan said. “With NFC we got a more friendly customer experience, and with tokenized data, like with EMV, we got secured information. So that means customer delight and a more secure experience, which wasn’t the case before.”

Previous experiences relied on PINs and QR codes, more difficult and less secure, Gopalkrishnan said.

Certain aspects of Bank of America’s consumer business, such as its rewards program, BankAmeriDeals, would seem to give it an advantage over other banks in the mobile wallet space.

“BankAmeriDeals is a building block,” Gopalkrishnan said. “It will play a part in whatever we do. New forms of authentication, geo-location, data — these are building blocks to use in order to deploy responsibly. And how we assemble those to get top of wallet — that is still the priority: to be top of wallet for the consumer.”

Top of wallet, not The wallet.

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