Republic testing new payment method

At the Caribbean Premier League T20 finals last month, Republic Bank Ltd introduced cricket fans to a contactless wearable payment option, which reduces the need for cash in hand.

Using a Republic Bank branded wristband embedded with a near-field communication (NFC) chip and preloaded with TT$50, patrons were able to pay for drinks by simply flicking their wrist over a point-of-sale machine and entering a pin number.

RBL boasted of being the first Caribbean financial institution to deploy the contactless, wearable solution at a major sporting event.

The contactless, wearable payment devices were distributed to over 800 patrons and the feedback was overwhelming, said Kwame Blanchfield RBL’s senior manager marketing and communications.

“Around 800 to just shy of 1000 people accepted it. And that was not because people were not interested, but it was because of our resources and being able to onboard so many people. But those persons who participated in the event totally loved it,” he stated.

The solution is in the pilot stage, but the bank intends to eventually roll it out as a payment option nationwide, Blanchfield told Express Business during an interview at RBL’s branch at Elerslie Plaza, Maraval.

Joining him for the interview was RBL’s general manager, electronic channels and payments, Denyse Ramnarine.

 Convenience to customers

RBL was the official banking partner of the Hero CPL T20.

“From the customer experience standpoint, we wanted to bring a different way of paying at the CPL. They have always been interested in adopting some new payment technologies into the game,” Blanchfield explained.

“So we said this is something we can look at—introducing and piloting a wearable, contactless device that allows for payment so persons don’t have to walk with cash and the bars themselves will not have to be doing a lot of end-of-day reconciliation with cash. And so the idea around this payment solution was born,” he noted.

How does it work?

“It’s pretty easy,” Ramnarine said.

“It’s a contactless device using NFC and as you know, NFC devices can come in any format. It can be in the form of a wristband, a ring or even your phone,” she said.

NFC is basically wireless technology that enables short-range communication between compatible devices.

“So the NFC is between the wristband and the point-of-sale device which also has NFC capability,” Ramnarine explained.

She said firstly, game patrons were asked to register for the bands by giving basic information like their name, e-mail address, contact number and by choosing a four-digit pin number.

“When they were ready to pay for the drinks, they simply positioned the wristband close to the point-of- sale machine and entered the pin to authorise the transaction.”

Republic Bank partners with Wi-Pay

In October, Republic Bank announced that it agreed to acquire a 19.99 per cent stake in Nobis BaaS Ltd, a subsidiary of WiPay Holdings Ltd Nobis, subject to regulatory approval.

The Nobis BaaS’ software platform enables digital payments to be made online through web browsers or mobile applications and at retail points of sale.

Ramnarine said Republic Bank worked with Nobis on the wearable solution.

According to the bank’s website, Nobis provided the on-site technical assistance for the wearables initiative and was also responsible for programming the devices.

“Both the wearable solution and our investment in Nobis BaaS are direct results of our relentless pursuit to bring first-to-market payment solutions to the customers of the Republic Group,” it stated.

Ramnarine said the wristbands were sourced externally.

The payment solution is still in the pilot stage and this is why the devices could not have been used outside of the CPL finals, the RBL official said.

“We are still looking and testing it. I’m sure we will be using it in some small events,” Ramnarine said.

“Once we feel better with the various pilots we want to do and we know exactly the form this contactless wearable would take, we will then engage the Central Bank for approval for this as a payment form factor. And then we can utilise it in many other environments,” said Blanchfield.

He highlighted that the contactless wearables can also be used as a venue access device, and not just for payments.

“You know sometimes in parties you have to get a stamp to say you’re coming back inside the venue? Well, that wristband can eliminate all of that,” he said.

“But definitely, once it has been agreed that we will move forward, we will engage the Central Bank, because this will be a newish form of payment, not radically different from what it is now but definitely no wearable is in the market, so it’s just to let the Central Bank know and get their blessings.”

Asked how soon the device will be rolled out nationwide, Blanchfield said: “Once we do further piloting, I believe we would want to use the Carnival period for our own internal, private, close-loop testing; not for the public, but for a Republic Bank event, I’m thinking maybe the second quarter of 2020”.

He said the aim is to allow customers to use the bands outside of events, such as in supermarkets, fast food outlets and pharmacies, to make low-value purchases.

“The idea is to make contactless wearables a more ubiquitous service in T&T,” Blanchfield stated.

Ramnarine noted that contactless wearable payments cater to low-value transactions, generally not crossing US$50 per transaction.

Users have the option of re-loading the wristband with additional funds via LINX or credit card.

She noted that by the time the technology is rolled out in T&T, infrastructure, in the form of NFC-capable point-of-sale terminals, will already be in place as the bank is soon to launch its contactless cards.

“NFC capabilities on the cards is mandated by the VISA and Mastercard networks, so the infrastructure would already be in place when the contactless wearables are rolled out,” Ramnarine said.

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