It's No Facebook, but P-to-P System Fuels Online Social Interaction

By Wolfe, Daniel | American Banker, August 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

It's No Facebook, but P-to-P System Fuels Online Social Interaction


Wolfe, Daniel, American Banker


Byline: Daniel Wolfe

As more consumers try out Fiserv Inc.'s person-to-person payment service, Popmoney, the tool is evolving to become as much a social tool as a payments one.

When users send or request funds, Fiserv presents them with a message field that allows far more flexibility than the short memo line of a check. Some consumers type a simple "Happy Birthday," whereas others provide detailed, itemized breakdowns to account for every penny being transmitted. It's no replacement for Facebook and Twitter, but it shows that users expect recipients to read and respond to their comments as though they were regular emails.

"The payment itself is the least important part of it," says Sanjeev Dheer, president of Fiserv's Popmoney division and the former CEO of CashEdge, which Fiserv bought last year. "Much more important is that the application facilitates that social interaction" illustrated in users' exchanges.

To be clear, Fiserv typically does not read these messages except as required by regulation, such as when other factors trigger a fraud or anti-money laundering alert that necessitates further scrutiny, Dheer says. Fiserv also used a short list of anonymized messages in a presentation to demonstrate Popmoney's use cases, though Dheer stressed this was a "one-time exercise."

Instead, as Fiserv fine-tunes its service it scrutinizes the more impersonal one-word categorizations users have the option to provide as they send or request funds. The categories include rent, childcare, entertainment and others. Fiserv also allows users to add new categories for their own use.

As more users send money to cover rent, for example, Fiserv can consider updating its payment system to make it easier to use for this purpose. For example, Fiserv could add an itemization feature to help a roommate collecting rent money to also request funds for other household expenses.

"We're adapting the application based on how we see people using it," he says. "As we advance the product, we may create specific variations of it that are adapted for those high-frequency uses."

Users can address Popmoney fund transfers to a recipient's email address or mobile phone number instead of needing to know a full account number. There are 1,400 banks that have signed on to use the service, Dheer says, and those banks have roughly 40 million online banking users altogether. …

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It's No Facebook, but P-to-P System Fuels Online Social Interaction
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