P2P Payments Update: Zelle Launches in Mobile and Online Banking Platforms

by on Jul 24, 2017

This June marked the official launch of Zelle, the new person-to-person (P2P) payment service, in several banks’ online and mobile platforms. Aiming to create a unified P2P payment offering across U.S. financial services institutions, Early Warning developed Zelle in partnership with over 30 banks on top of its clearXchange network. By creating a single brand that users access within their online and mobile banking platforms, sponsor banks and Early Warning hope to make P2P payments mainstream and carve out a section of the growing market at the same time. However, the staggered implementation expected to continue in the coming months means inconsistent functionality that may limit Zelle’s adoption. This is especially true when the “launch” is more of a rebranding project for an existing service, with very few banks increasing functionality for their users.

Consistent branding will no doubt raise awareness of Zelle and P2P payments in general, as partner banks team up to market the service. So far, nearly all of the nine banks that offer it use some variation of the language “Send Money with Zelle” to label the service. While most firms used some variation of Send Money or Person-to-Person Transfers before, Chase and Wells Fargo used their own branding: QuickPay and SurePay, respectively. Chase now calls its service QuickPay with Zelle, while Wells Fargo dropped its brand in favor of the commonly used phrasing, Send Money with Zelle. Given that QuickPay boasted almost as many millennial users as Venmo before the rebranding, it makes sense that Chase wants to hold on to its brand at the same time it begins promoting Zelle. Inconsistent branding could confuse potential adopters about who they can pay with the service.

Wells Fargo Send Money with Zelle Introductory Lightbox

Availability on multiple platforms is just as important for the service to build its brand, but a lack of consistent implementation of key functionality may cause potential adopters to look elsewhere. Functionality across the banks that have publicly implemented Zelle in their mobile apps varies as nearly half of these firms have yet to implement the Request capability, a staple feature of PayPal and Venmo. Meanwhile, only Bank of America and TD Bank offer the Split functionality that sets Zelle apart from other P2P payment services; however, TD is still using a white-labeled version of the service that doesn’t help promote the brand. Meanwhile, Venmo and other services that function on a single platform offer consistent functionality for all users.

Bank of America Send or Request Money with Zelle Screen

Zelle and its sponsor banks hope that the simplicity of registering for and using the service will foster adoption, especially for those uncomfortable with tying their accounts to third parties. Users with accounts at partner banks simply need to register an email or phone number with Zelle to start using the service, all within their bank’s mobile or online banking platform. Users with accounts at multiple institutions, however, will need unique contact methods to register for the service simultaneously with different banks. It is currently unclear if the launch of a standalone Zelle app, coming later this year, will provide users with an account to centrally manage settings for all their accounts and fix this issue.

With a strong set of features and the combined power of its sponsor banks’ marketing, Zelle will likely continue to expand its user base and firmly establish itself as a P2P payment provider. At the same time, inconsistent implementation and branding could limit what would otherwise be a strong competitor in the P2P space.

For more on Zelle’s role in the banking world, see our blog post Banks Play Catch-Up to Venmo in the Person-to-Person Payments Space.