Payments

Hardly a Venmo killer, banks are being cautious with Zelle rollout

  • Bank-backed peer-to-peer payments network Zelle is being integrated into mobile banking apps.
  • Banks are holding back on pushing Zelle as a brand while they work out technical issues.
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Hardly a Venmo killer, banks are being cautious with Zelle rollout

Banks aren’t ready to call Zelle’s hyped entry into the peer-to-peer payments space a Venmo killer, at least not yet.

Early Warning, the company owned by a consortium of major U.S. banks that runs the peer-to-peer payments network, announced Monday that the volume of payments made through that channel were valued at $55 billion last year — more than than double the value of those originating through PayPal-owned Venmo. For the same time period, Venmo processed $17.6 billion of payments.

Venmo’s success, however, has been driven by brand recognition, to the degree that “venmoing” a few dollars for beer is now synonymous with the modern experience of dealing with money. But banks are holding off on pushing the Zelle name for now. They haven’t launched an ad blitz, for instance.

Jeremiah Glodoveza, vp of communications, said many of the participating 20 banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo have integrated the peer-to-peer payments capability of Zelle within their mobile banking apps without explicitly calling it Zelle. That will come later. And in the meantime, Zelle has created a design and experience “standard” so the offering looks and feels the same across all banks.

“As the banking industry moves toward a full rollout of the Zelle network, Wells Fargo is proud to offer our 20 million mobile customers the connectivity and the most vital features of the Zelle experience,” Brett Pitts, head of digital for Wells Fargo virtual channels said in a statement. “As we look forward to implementing the Zelle brand into our app, we’re also pleased with the incredible transaction volume this network already handles.”

Early Warning said it needs to continue to test the technology before a formal launch.

“We’re making sure all the banks in the network are connected up, so we can deliver on the promise of money movement in minutes — that’s a significant technological challenge to do,” Glodoveza said, noting that benefit of peer-to-peer payments through Zelle is safety and immediacy, given its capability for near-instant receipt of funds.

While Glodoveza didn’t give a precise date as to when Zelle will launch as a brand, he said it would be ready to roll out in a few months. Customers of banks that aren’t Zelle participants will also be able to use the network through a standalone app that connects to their bank account. The app’s roll out will coincide with a national advertising campaign, which he said will include digital, print, out-of-home and social media outreach.

When asked if banks are latecomers to the game of peer-to-peer payments in a space Glodoveza said Zelle’s broader appeal will center Zelle’s ease of use and quality. And the banks have a sort of strategic advantage in this place: Zelle has the benefit of layering on top of existing institutions that people already use.

“What we’re focusing on for our brand is highlighting the value proposition for Zelle and within that, we’re looking at the entire market to educate people that this is a viable alternative to checks and cash.”

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