Electronic Commerce: Provider of Internet Wallets Signs Up 3 Big Card Issuers

Article excerpt

QPass Inc., a two-year-old Internet transaction company, has extended the electronic wallet concept by signing three financial institutions to use its software.

Royal Bank of Canada, MBNA Corp., and Providian Financial Corp. have all agreed to test QPass' PowerWallet. Together, the institutions have 30 million credit card holders who are potential electronic wallet users.

"Our goal is to have 100 million cardholders by the end of the summer" through alliances with additional card issuers, said Cornelius Willis, vice president of marketing at Seattle-based QPass.

On the merchant side, QPass has signed up 12 companies. These include The Wall Street Journal, which delivers articles digitally over the network; Morningstar, which offers data from its mutual fund data base; and Corbis, the digital image library.

Royal Bank plans to kick off its branded version of PowerWallet in October because "we want a meaningful number of people in the market in time for the Christmas season," said vice president Allan McGale.

Last year Christmas shoppers spent $3 billion to $4 billion on-line, according to Boston Consulting Group. The total is expected to jump to $9 billion to $10 billion this year.

Royal Bank will pilot-test the wallet with "several hundred thousand" cardholders, eventually offering it to all of its five million card users, Mr. McGale said. The bank is also a major merchant processor, with a 25% market share in Canada. Eventually Royal Bank's U.S. Internet subsidiary, Security First Network Bank, may offer the wallet to its banking customers.

PowerWallet would be free.

"We are at the stage where we're learning about wallets and consumer behavior," Mr. McGale said. "We want to make sure the issues that are important to consumers are covered."

One reason Royal chose PowerWallet is its sophisticated form-filling capabilities.

Industry analysts estimated that about one-third to two-thirds of all Internet purchases are abandoned before checkout, mainly because of the tedium of filling out on-screen payment forms.

PowerWallet users can shop anywhere on the Web after entering their credit card and billing information just once.

QPass Inc. worked with eHNC, the Internet division of San Diego-based HNC Software Inc., a provider of neural network technology, to build the intelligent form-filling capability. …